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Full text of "'Tween Snow And Fire : a tale of South Africa"

A]VD FIRE 



i BERfRAn MI-TFORD 



'Tween Snow and Fire 



A TALE OF SOUTH AFRICA 



BY 

BERTRAM MITFORD 
I < • 

AUTHOR OF "the KING's ASSEGAI," -"THE INDUNa's WIFE," 

"the sign of the spider," etc. 




NEW YORK 
STREET & SMITH, Publishew 
238 William Strebt 



/900 



Copyright, 189a, 
By CASSELL & COMPANY 

Copyright, 1900, 
By STREET & SMITH 



CONTENTS. 



CHAFfBR • PAGE 

I. The Episode of the White Doe, . , . . i 

II. " You HAVE Struck A Chief," .... 8 

III. Eanswyth, 13 

]V. " Love Setti <g Unawares," . , . . 18 

V. The War-Dance at Nteya's Kraal, .... 26 

VI. Hlangani, the Herald 31 

VII. In the Lion's Den 36 

VIII. " On the Rock thev Scorch, like a Drop of 

Fire," ......... 40 

IX. A Startling Surprise, 47 

X. A Mutual Warning, 53 

XI. " The Tail Wags THE Dog," ... .58 

XII. "Ah, Love, but a Day ! " 64 

XIII. "... And THE World IS Changed," ... 72 

XIV. A Curtain Secret, 81 

XV. " But I am Thy Lov.«5," 87 

XVI. "A Madness of Farewells," 95 

XVII. In THE Enemy's Country, .103 

XVIII. The Tables Turned no 

XIX. The Last Cartridge, 116 

XX. The Tables Turned Again, 123 

XXI. Under Orders for Home 128 

XXII. " We are Four Fools," 132 

XXIII. " Onward they Ply IN Dreadful Rack," . . . 137 

XXIV. A Dark Rumour in Komgha 143 

XXV. " The Curse Has Come upon Me," .... 150 

V 

289124 



^' CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER 

FAGK 

XXVI. "And the Summer's Night rs a Winter's 

157 

XXVII. The Shield of Her Love, 161 

XXVIII, The Silver Box, i58 

XXIX. The Paramount Chief, 174 

XXX. The Witch-Doctress 181 

XXXI. The " Smelling Out," 188 

XXXII. A Strange Duel, ig5 

XXXIII. " I Walk in Shadow," 206 

XXXIV. From Death and To Death, .... 213 
XXXV. Eustace Becomes Unpopular, . . . .223 

XXXVI. A Row in the Camp, 228 

XXXVII. " It is the Voice of the Oracle," . . . 236 

XXXVIII. At Swaanepoel's Hoek 241 

XXXIX. From the Dead » 247 

XL. A Letter From Hoste 252 

XLI. XalAsa's Revelation, 255 

XLII. The Search P.\rty, 262 

XLIII. " Kwa 'Zinyoka," .265 

XLIV. Inferno, 270^ 

XLV. A Fearful Discovery, 275 

XLVI. The End of the Witch-Doctress, . . 285 

XLVII. Into Space 295 



Envoi, 302 



Let them drink it — let their hands 
Tremble, and their cheeks be flame, 
As they feel the fatar bands 
Of a love they dare not name, 
With a wild, delicious pain, 
Twine about their hearts again, 

— Tristram and Iseult. 

But, as season followed season, 
And our boys to manhood grew, 

Fiercer blazed the fires of treason, 
And the sparks about us flew. 

Fierce Gcalekas came to sound us, 

And they called us idle logs 
Lying still, while all around us 

Amaxosa fought " the dogs." 

Oh, the terror of the vision 
That was flashed upon my mind I 

As I cried amid derision, 
" Sons of Gaika, are you blind ? 

" Though the Fingoes know your power ; 
Though the English own you brave : 
Vou will meet, in fatal hour, 
Both the master and the slave," 

— Lament of Tyala, 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE EPISODE OF THE WHITE DOG. 

The buck is running for dear life. 

The dog is some fifty yards behind the buck, The Kafir 
is about the same distance behind the dog, which distance 
he is striving right manfully to maintain ; not so unsuccess. 
fully, either, considering that he is pitting the speed of two 
legs against that of eight. 

Down the long grass slope they course — buck, dog, and 
savage. The former, a game little antelope of the steinbok 
species, takes the ground in a series of long, flying leaps, 
his white tail whisking like a flag of defiance. The second, 
a tawny, black-muzzled greyhound, stretching his snaky 
length in the wake of his quarry, utters no sound, as with 
arrow-like velocity he holds on his course, his cruel eyes 
gleaming, his jaws dripping saliva in pleasurable anticipa- 
tion of the coming feast. The third, a fine, well-knit young 
Kafir, his naked body glistening from head to foot with red 
ochre, urges on his hound with an occasional shrill whoop 
of encouragement, as he covers the ground at a surprising 
pace in his free, bounding stride. He holds a knob-kerrie 
in his hand, ready for use as soon as the quarry shall be 
within hurling distance. 

But of this there seems small chance at present. It takes 
a good dog indeed to run down an unwounded buck with 
the open veldt before him, and good as this one is, it seems 
probable that he will get left. Down the long grass slope 
they course, but the opposite acclivity is the quarry's 
opportunity. The pointed hoofs seem hardly to touch 



2 



'TIVEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



ground in the arrowy flight of their owner. The disUnce 
between the latter and the pursuing hound increases 

Along a high ridge overlooking this primitive chase 
grow, at regular intervals, several circular clumps of bush 
One of these conceals a spectator. The latter is seated 
on horseback in the very midst of the scrul?, his feet dang- 
ling loosely m the stirrups, his hand closed tightly and 
rather suggestively round the breech of a double gun— rifle 
and smooth bore— which rests across the pommel of his 
. * , J.?^^ ^ "P°" f^ce, as, himself com- 

pletely hidden, he watches intently the progress of the 
r}^ evident that he is more interested than pleased. 
J^or fom Carhayes is the owner of this Kaffrarian stock 
ruri. In that part of Kaffraria, game is exceedingly scarce, 
owing to the presence of a redundant native population. 
Tom Carhayes is an ardent sportsmaiT and spares no effort 
to protect and restore the game upon his farm. Yet here is 
a Kafir running down a buck under his very nose. Small 
wonder that he feels furious. 

" That scoundrel Goniwe ! " he mutters between his set 
teeth. "I'll put a bullet through his cur, and lick the 
nigger himself within an inch of his life ! " 

The offence is an aggravated one. Not only is the act 
of poaching a very capital crime in his eyes, but the per- 
petrator ought to be at that moment at least three miles 
away, herding about eleven hundred of his master's sheep. 
These he has left to take care of themselves while he 
indulges in an illicit buck-hunt. Small wonder indeed that 
his said master, at no time a good-tempered man, vows to 
make a condign example of him. 

The buck has nearly gained the crest of the ridge. 
Once over it his chances are good. The pursuing hound, 
running more by sight than by scent, may easily be foiled, 
by a sudden turn to right or left, and a double or two. 
The dog is a long way behind now, and the spectator has 
to rise in his stirrups to command a view of the situation. 
Fifty yards more and the quarry will be over the ridge and 
in comparative safety. 

But from just that distance above there suddenly 
darts forth another dog — a white one. It has sprung from 
a patch of bush similar to that which conceals the specta- 
tor. The buck, thoroughly demoralised by the advent of 
this new enemy, executes a rapid double, and thus pressed 



THE EPISODE OF THE WHITE DOG. 



3 



back into the very jaws of its first pursuer has no alternative 
but to head up the valley as fast as its legs can carry it 

But the new hound is fresh, and in fact a better dog than 
the first one. He presses the quarry very close and needs 
not the encouraging shouts of his master, who has leaped 
forth from his concealment immediately upon unleashing 
hira. For a few moments the pace is even, tkm it dureasej. 
The buck seemed doomed. 

And, indeed, such is the case anyhow. For, held in waiting" 
at a given point ready to be let slip if necessary, is a third 
dog. Such is the Kafir method of hunting. The best doff 
ever whelped is not quite equal, either in speed or stayinj 
power, to running down a full-grown buck in the open veldl 
but by adopting the above means of hunting in relays the 
chance are equalised. To be more accurate, the quarry has 
no chance at all. naa 

i,n?nH'^r^' ^^^'5 ' "^^ dog' a t'-*" white grey, 
hound of surprising endurance and speed, gaining rapidly 
the other, lashed into a final spurt by the spirit of Emulation' 
It^llt^J^- '"^^ ^^^''^ stimulating their hounds 

b at the deatir''"'^^""'^"*' '^""^^"^"^ ^""^'V "^rve to be 
The buck— terror and demoralisation in its soft, lustrous 
eyes--.s heading straight for the spectator's hiding place. 
The latter raises his piece, with the intention of sending a 
bullet thr« ugh the first dog as soon as it shall come abrefs? 
of his position ; the shot barrel will finish off the other 

ch.i"' -1°^^ ""'^ 5,'^.- '^^^ f^^^ ^he man is simply 
shaking vvith rage. Grinding his teeth, he recognises his 
utter inability to hit a haystack at that moment, lit alone a 
swiftly coursing greyhound. 

The chase sweeps by within seventy yards of his position 
-buck, dog, and Kafirs. Then another diversion oc" 

nnT"" f "^'^''.^^ apparently out of the ground itself. 
One of these, poising himself erect with a peculiar sprinev 
quivering motion, holds his kerrie ready to hurl. The buck 
IS barely thirty yards distant, and going like the wind 

Whigge-woof !•■ The hard stick hurls through the 
air-aimed nearly as far ahead of the quarry as the latter 

Ltt^ \ T •,■''1 There is a splintering 

crash, and a shrill, horrid scream-then a reddish brown 
Shape, writhing and rolling in agony upon the ground The 



4 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE, 



aim of the savage has been f^ue. All four of the buck's 
legs are snapped and shattered like pipe-stems. 

The two hounds hurl themselves upon the struggling car- 
case, their savage snarls mingling with the sickening, half- 
human yell emitted by the terrified and tortured steinbok. 
The four Kafirs gather round their prey. 

" Suka inja .1 " * cries one of them brutally, giving the 
white dog a dig in the ribs with the butt-end of his kerrie, 
and putting the wretched buck out of its agony by a blow 
on the head with the same. The hound, with a snarling 
yelp, springs away from the carcase, and lies down beside 
his fellow. Their flanks are heaving and panting after the 
run, and their lolling tongues and glaring eyes turn hungrily 
toward the expected prey. Their savage masters, squatted 
around, are resting after their exertions, chatting in a 
deep bass hum. To the concealed spectator the sight is 
simply maddening. He judges the time for swooping down 
upon the delinquents has arrived. 

Were he wise he would elect to leave them alone entirely, 
and would withdraw quietly without betraying his presence. 
He might indeed derive some modicum of satisfaction by 
subsequently sjambokking the defaulting Goniwe for de- 
serting his post, though the wisdom of that act of consola- 
tion may be doubted. But a thoroughly angry man is 
seldom wise, and Tom Carhayes forms no exception to the 
general rule. With a savage curse he breaks from his cover 
and rides furiously down upon the offending group. 

But if he imagines his unlooked for arrival is going to 
strike terror to the hearts of those daring and impudent 
poachers, he soon becomes alive to his mistake. Two of 
them, including his own herd, are already standing. The 
others make no attempt to rise from their careless and 
squatting posture. Alt contemplate him with absolute un- 
concern, and the half-concealed and contemptuous grin 
spread across the broad countenance of his retainer in no 
wise tends to allay his fury. 

" What the devil are you doing here, Goniwe ? " he cries. 
" r.et away back to your flock at once, or I'll tan your hide 
to ribbons. Here. Get out of the light you two — I'm 
going to shoot that dog — unless you want the charge 
through yourselves instead," 

This speech, delivered half in Boer Uutch, half in the 
* •* Get out, dog I " 



THE EPISODE OF THE WHITE DOG. 



5 



Xosa language, tias a startling effect. The other two 
Kafirs spring suddenly to their feet, and all four close up 
HI a line in front of the speaker, so as to stand between him 
and their dogs. Their demeanour is insolent and threat- 
ening to the last degree. 

" What/ 'tiiliingu .'" * cries the man whose successful 
throw has brought down the quarry — a barbarian of 
herculean stature and with an evil, sinister cast of counten- 
ance. " Shoot away, 'mlUmgii ! But it will not be only a 
dog that will die." 

The purport of this menace is unmistakable. The 
speaker even advances a step, shifting, as he does so, his 
assegais from his right hand to his left— leaving the former 
free to wield an ugly looking kerrie. His fellow country- 
men seem equally ready for action. 

Carhayes is beside himself with fury. To be defied and 
bearded like this on his own land, and by four black scoun- 
drels whom he has caught red-handed in the act of killing 
his own game ! The position is intolerable. But through 
his well-nigh uncontrollable wrath there runs a vein of 
caution. 

Were he to act upon his fust impulse and shoot the 
offending hound, he would have but one charge left. The 
Kafirs would be upon him before he could draw trigger. 
They evidently mean mischief, and they are four to one. Two 
of them are armed with assegais and all four carry— in their 
hands the scarcely less formidable weapon— the ordinary 
hard wood kerrie' iMureover, were he to come off victori- 
ous at the price of shooting one of them dead, the act would 
entail very ugly consequences, for although the frontier was 
practically in little short of a state of war, it was not actu- 
ally so, which meant that the civil law still held sway and 
would certainly claim its vindication to the full. 

For a moment or two the opposing parties stand con- 
fronting each other. The white man, seated on his horse, 
grips the breech of his gun convulsively, and the veins 
stand out in cords upon his flushed face as he realises his 
utter powerlessness. The Kafirs, their naked, muscular 
frames repulsive with red ochre, stand motionless, their 
savage countenances wreathed in a sneer of hate and defi- 
ance. There are scarcely ten yards between them, 

The train is laid. It only needs the application of a 
* " Ho ! white man !" 



6 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



spark to cause a magnificent flare-up. That spark is ap- 
plied by the tall barbarian who has first spoken. 

''Au umlungu!" he cries in his great, sneering tones. 
" Go away. We have talked enough with you. Am I not 
Hlangani, a man of the House of Sarili,* the Great 
Chief, and is not the white dog mine ? Go away. Suka ! " + 

Now whether through pure accident— in other words, the 
' sheer cussedness ' of Fate— or whether it imagines that its 
master's last word was a command to itself, the white dog 
at this juncture gets up, and leaving the protecting shadow 
of its master begins to slink away over the vd(/^. This and 
the swaggering insolence of the Kafir is too much for 
Carhayes. Up goes his piece : there is a flash and a report. 
The wretched hound sinks in his tracks without even a yelp, 
and lies feebly kicking his life away, with the blood welling 
from a great circular wound behind the shoulder. The 
poor beast has run down his last buck. 

The train is fired. Like the crouching leopard crawling 
nearer for a surer spring the great Kafir, with a sudden 
glide, advances to the horse's head, and makes a quick 
clutch at the bridle. Had he succeeded in seizing it, a 
rapidly followed up blow from the deadly kerrie would have 
stretched the rider senseless, if not dead, upon the veldi. 
But the latter is too quick for him. Jer..ing back his horse's 
head and driving in both spurs, he causes the animal to 
rear and plunge, thus defeating any attempt on the part of 
his enemies to drag him from the saddle, as well as widen- 
ing the distance between himself and them. 

" Stand back, you curs ! " he roars, dropping his piece 
to a level with the chest of the foremost. " The first who 
moves another step shall be served the same as that brute of 
u dog ! " 

But the Kafirs only laugh derisively. They are shrewd 
enough to know that the civil law is still paramount, and im- 
agine he dare not fire on them. A kerrie hurtles through 
the air with an ugly " whigge." Blind with fury, Carhayes 
discharges his remaining barrel full at the tall savage, who 
is still advancing towards him, and whose threatening de- 
meanour and formidable aspect seems to warrant even 
that extreme step in self-defence. The Kafir falls. 

* Commonly known as Kreli— the paramount chief of all the Xofa 
tribes. 

f " Get out." Usually only employed toward a dog. 



TffE EPISODE OF THE WHITE DOG. 



7 



Surprised, half cowed by this unlooked for contingency, 
the others pause irresolute. Before they can recover 
themselves a warning shout, close at hand, creates a diver- 
sion which seems likely to throw a new light on the face of 
a£fairs. 



CHAPTER II. 

"YOU HAVE STRUCK. A CHIEF." 

" Baleka, you dogs ! " cried Carhayes, who had taken the 
opportunity of slipping a couple of fresh cartridges into his 
gun. Balika* or I'll shoot the lot of you." 

He looked as if he meant it, too. The Kafirs, deeming 
discretion the better part of valour, judged it expedient to 
temporise. 

"Don't shoot again, ^cfcii'./ f You have already killed 
one man ! " they said significantly. 

"And I'll kill four ! " was the infuriated reply. Baleka, 
do you hear — quick — sharp — at once, or you're dead men ! " 

" Don't do anything so foolish, Tom," said a voice at his 
side, and a hand was stretched out as though to arrest the 
aim of the threatening piece. " For God's sake, remem- 
ber. We are not at war — yet." 

That be hanged ! " came the rough rejoinder. " Any- 
way, we'll give these fellows a royal thrashing. We are two 
to three — that's good enough odds. Come along, Eustace, 
and we'll lick them within an inch of their lives." 

" We'll do nothing of the sort," replied the other quietly 
and firmly. Then, with an anxiety in his face which he 
could not altogether conceal, he walked his horse over to 
the prostrate Kafir. But the latter suddenly staggered to 
his feet. His left shoulder was streaming with blood, and 
the concussion of the close discharge had stunned him. 
Even his would-be slayer looked somewhat relieved over" 
this turn which affairs had taken, and for this he had to 
thank the plunging of his horse, for it is difficult to shoot 
straight, even point blank, with a restive steed beneath one, 
let alone the additional handicap of being in a white rage 
at the time. 

Of his wound the Kafir took not the smallest notice. He 
stood contemplating the two white men with a scowl of 
* Run. t Master. 



" YOU HAVE STRUCT^' A CHIEF." 



9 



bitter hatred deepening upon his ochre-besmeared visage. 
His three countrymen halted irresolute a little distance — a 
respectful distance, thought Carhayes with a sneer— in the 
background, as though waiting to see if their assistance 
should be required. Then he spoke : 

" Now hear my words, you whom the people call Umlil- 
wane.* I know you, even though you do not know me — 
better for you if you did, for then you would not have 
wounded the sleeping lion, nor have aroused the anger of 
the hooded snake, who is swifljj? to strike. Hd ! I am 
Hlangani," he continued, raising his voice to a perfect roar 
of menace, and his eyes blazed like live coals as he pointed 
to the shot wounds in his shoulder, now black and hideous 
with clotted blood. "Yam Hlangani, the son of Ngcesiba, 
a man of the House of Gcal^ka. What man living am I afraid 
of? Behold me here as I stand. Shoot again, Umlilwane 
— shoot again, if you dare. Hau ! Hear my ' word.' You 
have slain my dog — my white hunting dog, the last of his 
breed — who can outrun every other hunting dog in the 
land, even as the wind ontstrippeth the crawling ox-wagon, 
and you have shed my blood, the blood of a chief. You 
had better first have cut off your right hand,/;/- it is better 
to lose a hand than one's mind. This is my 'word,* Umlil- 
wane — bear it in memory, iox you have strtick a chief — a man 
of the House of Gcaleka." 

" Damn the House of Gcaleka, anyway," said Carhayes, 
with a sneer as the savage, having vented his denunciation, 
stalked scowlingly away with his compatriots. "Look here, 
isidenge,\ he continued. "This is my word. Keep clear 
of rae, for the next time you fall foul of me I'll shoot you 
dead. And now, Eustace," turning to his companion, " we 
had better load up this buck-meat and carry it home. What 
on earth is the good of my trying to preserve the game, with 
a whole location of these black scum not ten miles from my 
door? " he went on, as he placed the carcase of the unfortun- 
ate steinbok on the crupper of his horse. 

" No good. No good, whatever, as I am always telling 
you," rejoined the other decisively, " Kafir locations and 
game can't exist side by side. Doesn't it ever strike you, 
Tom, that this game-preserving mania is costing you — cost- 
ing us, excessively dear." 

* " Little Fire"— Kafirs are fond of bestowing nicknames. This one 
referred to its bearer's habitually short temper. 

t Fool. 



lO 



'TWEEN SNOIV AND FIRE. 



"Hang it. I suppose it is," growled Carhayes. "I'll 
clear out, trek to some other part of the country where a fel- 
low isn't overrun by a lot of worthless, lazy, red Kafirs. I 
wish to Heaven they'd only start this precious war. I'd 
take it out of some of their hides. Have some better sport 
than buck-hunting then, eh ? " 

".Perhaps. But there may be no war after all. Mean- 
while you have won the enmity of every Kafir in Nteya's 
and Ncandiiku's locations. 1 wouldn't give ten pounds for 
our two hundred pound pair of breeding ostriches, if it meant 
leaving them here three days from now, that's all." 

"Oh, shut up croaking, Eustace," snarled Carhayes, 
"And by the way, who the deuce is this sweep Hlangani, 
and what is he doing on this side of the river anyway?" 

"He's aGcal^ka, as he said, and a petty chief under 
Kreli ; and the Gaikas on this side are sure to take up his 
quarrel. I know them." 

" H'm. It strikes me you know these black scoundrels 
rather well, Eustace. What a queer chap you are. Now, I 
wonder what on earth has made you take snch an interest 
in them of late." 

" So do I. I suppose, though, I find them interesting, 
especially since I have learned to talk with them pretty 
easily. And they are interesting. On the whole. Hike them." 

Carhayes made no reply, unless an inarticulate growl 
could be construed as such, and the two men rode on in 
silence. They were distant cousins, these two, and as re- 
garded their farming operations, partners. Yet never were 
two men more utterly dissimilar. Carhayes, the older by 
a matter of ten years, was just on the wrong side of forty — 
but his powerfully built frame was as tough and vigorous 
as in the most energetic days of his youth. He was rather 
a good looking man, but the firm set of his lips beneath the 
thick, fair beard, and a certain shortness of the neck, set 
forth his choleric disposition at first glance. The other 
was slightly the taller of the two, and while lacking the 
broad, massive proportions of his cousin, was straight, and 
well set up. But Eustace Milne's face would have puzzled 
the keenest character reader. It was a blank. Not that 
there was aught of stupidity or woodenness stamped thereon. 
On the contrary, there were moments when it would light 
up with a rare attractiveness, but its normal expression was 
of that impassibility which you may see upon the countc- 



" YOU HAVE strk;<-k a chief. 



II 



nance of a priest or a lawyer of intellect and wide experience, 
whose vocation involves an intimate and profoundly varied 
acquaintance with human nature in all its chequered lights 
and shades ; rarely, however, upon that of one so young. 

From the high ridge on which the two men were riding, 
the eye could wander at will over the rolling, grassy plains 
and mimosa dotted dales of Kaffraria. The pure azure of 
the heavens was unflecked by a single cloud. The light, 
balmy air of this early spring day was as invigorating as 
wine. Far away to the southeast the sweep of undulating 
grass land melted into an indistinct blue haze — the Indian 
Ocean — while in the opposite direction the panorama was 
barred by the hump-like Kabousie Heights, their green 
slopes alternating with lines of dark forest in a straggling 
labyrinth of intersecting kloofs. Far away over the golden, 
sunlit plains, the white walls of a farmhouse or two were 
discernible, and here and there, rising in a line upon the 
still atmosphere, a column of grey smoke marked the lo- 
cality of many a distant kraal lying along the spurs of the 
hills. So still, so transparent, indeed, was the air that even 
the voices of their savage inhabitants and the low of cat- 
tle floated faintly across the wide and intervening space. 
Beneath — against the opposite ridge, about half a mile 
distant, the red ochre on their clothing and persons show- 
ing in vivid and pleasing contrast against the green of the 
hillside, moved ten or a dozen' Kafirs — men, women, and 
children. They stepped out in line at a brisk, elastic pace, 
and the lazy hum of their conversation drifted to the ears 
of the two white men so plainly that they could almost 
catch its burden. 

To the younger of these two men the splendid vastness 
of this magnificent panorama, framing the picturesque 
figures of its barbarous inhabitants, made up a scene of 
which he never wearied, for though at present a Kaffra- 
rian stock farmer, he had the mind of a thinker, a philoso- 
pher, and a poet. To the elder, however, there was noth- 
ing noteworthy or attractive about it. We fear he regarded 
the beautiful rolling plains as so much better or worse veldt 
for purposes of stock-feeding, and was apt to resent the 
continued and unbroken blue of the glorious vault above 
as likely to lead to an inconvenient scarcity of rain, if not 
to a positive drought. As for the dozen Kafirs in the 
foreground, so far from discerning anything poetical or 



12 



'TWEE.V S.VOIV AND FIRE. 



picturesque about them, lie looked upon them as just that 
number of black scoundrels making their way to the near- 
est canteen to get drunk on the proceeds of the barter of 
skins flayed from stolen sheep — his own sheep among those 
of others. 

As if to emphasize this last idea, cresting the ridge at 
that moment, they came in sight of a large, straggling flock. 
Straggling indeed ! In twos and threes, in clumps of a 
dozen, and in clumps of fifty, the animals, though num- 
bering but eleven hundred, were spread over nearly two 
miles of veldt. It was the flock in charge of the defaulting 
and contumacious Gonivve, who, however, having caught 
a glimpse of the approach of his two masters, might be 
descried hurriedly collecting his scattered charges. Car- 
hayes ground his teeth. 

"I'll rip his black hide off him. I'll teach him to let 
the sheep go to the devil while he hunts our bucks." And 
gripping his reins he drove his spurs into his horse's flanks, 
with fell intent toward the offending Kafir. 

" Wait — wait ! " urged the more prudent Eustace. " For 
Heaven's sake, don't give yourself away again. If you 

must lick the boy, wait until you get him— and the sheep 

.safe home this evening. If you give him beans now, its 
more than likely he'll leave the whole flock in the veldt and 
won't come back at all — not forgetting, of course, to drive 
off a dozen or two to Nteya's location." 

There was reason in this, and Carhayes acquiesced with 
a snarl. To collect the scattered sheep was to the two 
mounted men a labour of no great difficulty or time, and 
with a stern injunction to Goniwe not to be found playing 
the fool a second time, the pair turned their horses' heads 
and rode homeward. 



CHAPTER III. 



EANSWYTH. 

Anta's Kloof — such was the name of Tom Carhayes' 
farm — was situated on the very edge of the Gaika location. 
This was unfortunate, because its owner got on but poorly 
with his barbarous neighbours. They, for their part, bore 
him no good will either. 

The homestead comprised a comfortable stone dwelling 
in one story. A high stoep and veranda ran round three 
sides of it, commanding a wide and lovely view of rolling 
plains and mimosa sprinkled kloofs, for the house was built 
on rising ground. Behind, as a background, a few miles 
distant, rose the green spurs of the Kabousie Heights. 
A gradual a.scent of a few hundred feet above the 
house afforded a splendid view of the rugged and table 
topped Kei Hills. And beyond these, on the right, the 
plains of Gcalk^aland, with the blue smoke rising from 
many a clustering kraal. Yet soft and peaceful as was 
the landscape, there was little of peace just then in the 
mind of its inhabitants, white or brown, for the savages 
were believed to be in active preparation for war, for a 
concerted and murderous outbreak on a large scale, in- 
volving a repetition of tjie massacre-; of isolated and 
unprepared settlers such as characterised similar risings 
on former occasions ; the last, then, happily, a quarter of a 
century ago. 

Nearer, nearer to his western bed, dipped the sinking sun, 
throwing out long slanting darts of golden rays ere bring- 
ing to a close, in a flood of effulgent glory, the sweet African 
spring day. They fell on the placid surface of the dam, 
lying below in the kloof, causing it to shine like a sea of 
quicksilver. They brought out the vivid green of the 
willows, who.se feathery boughs drooped upon the cool 
water. They blended with the soft, restful cooing of ring 
doves, swaying upon many a mimosa spray, or winging their 
way swiftly from the mealte lands to their evening roost, 



14 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



and they seemed to impart a blithe gladsomeness to the 
mellow shout of the hoopoe, echoing from the cool shade of 
yonder rugged and bush-clad kloof. 

Round the house a dozen or so tiny ostrich chicks were 
picking at the ground, or disputing the possession of some 
unexpected dainty with a tribe of long-legged fowls. 
Quaint enough they looked, these little, fluffy balls, with 
their bright eyes, and tawny, spotted necks ; frail enough, 
too, and apt to come off badly at the spur or beak of any 
truculent rooster who should resent their share of the 
plunder aforesaid. Nominally they are under the care of a 
small Kafir boy, but the little black rascal — his master being 
absent and his mistress soft hearted — prefers the congenial 
associations of yonder group of beehive huts away there 
behind the sheep kraals, and the fun of building miniature 
kraals with mud and three or four boon companions, so the 
ostrich chicks are left to herd themselves. But the volleying 
boom of their male parent, down there in the great enclo- 
sure, rolls out loudly enough on the evening air, and the 
huge bird may be described in all the glory of his jet and 
snowy plumage, with inflated throat, rearing himself to his 
full height, rolling his fiery eye in search of an adversary. 

And now the flaming rays of the sinking sun have given 
place to a softer, mellower light, and the red afterglow is 
merging into the pearly grey of evening. The hillside is 
streaked with the dappled hides of cattle coming up the 
kloof, and many a responsive low greets the clamorous 
voices of the calves, shut up in the calf hoek, hungry and 
expectant. Then upon the ridge comes a white, moving 
mass of fleecy backs. It streams down the slope, raising a 
cloud of dust — guided, kept together, by an occasional 
kerrie deftly thrown to the right or left— and soon arrives 
at its nightly fold. But the herd is nonplussed, for there 
is no Baas there to count in. He pauses a moment, looks 
around, then drives the sheep into the kraal, and having 
secured the gate, throws his red kaross around him and 
stalks away to the huts. 

Eanswyth Carhayes stood on the stoep, looking out for 
the return of her husband and cousin. She was very tall 
for a woman, her erect carriage causing her to appear even 
taller. And she was very beautiful. The face, with its 
straight, thoroughbred features, was one of those which, at 



EANSWYTH. 



15 



first sight, conveyed an impression of more than ordmary 
attractiveness, and this impression further acquaintance 
never failed to develop into a realisation of its rare loveli- 
ness Yet by no means a mere animal or flower-like 
beauty. There was character in the strongly marked, arch- 
in^ brows, and in the serene, straight glance of the large, 
jrrey eyes. Further, there was indication that their owner 
would not be lacking in tact or fixity of purpose ; two qual- 
ities usually found hand in hand. Her hair, though dark, 
was many shades removed from black, and of it she pos- 
sessed a more than bountiful supply. 

She came of a good old Colonial family, but had been 
educated in England. Well educated, too ; thanks to which 
salutary storing of a mind eagerly open to culture, many 
an otherwise dull and unoccupied hour of her four years 
of married life— frequently left, as she was, alone for a whole 
day at a time— was turned to brightness. Alone? Yes, 
for she was childless. 

When she had married bluff, hot-tempered Tom Carhayes, 
who was nearly fifteen years her senior, and had gone to live 
on a Kaffrarian stock farm, her acquaintance unanimously 
declared she had " thrown herself away." But whether this 
was so or not, certain it is that Eanswyth herself evinced 
no sort of indication to that effect, and indeed more than 
one of the aforesaid acquaintance eventually came to envy 
her calm, cheerful contentment. To the expression of which 
sentiment she would reply with a quiet smile that she sup- 
posed she was cut out for a " blue-stocking," and that the 
restful seclusion, not to say monotony, of her life,^fforded 
her ample time for indulging her studious tastes. 

After three years her husband's cousin had come to live 
with them. Eustace Milne, who was possessed of moderate 
means, had devoted the few years subsequent on leaving 
college to "seeing the world," and it must be owned he had 
managed to see a good deal of it in the time. But tiring 
eventually of the process, he had made overtures to his 
cousin to enter into partnership with the latter in his stock- 
farming operations. Carhayes, who at that time had been 
somewhat unlucky, having been hard hit by a couple of 
very bad seasons, and thinking moreover that the presence 
in the house of his cousin, whom he knew and rather liked, 
would make life a little more cheerful for Eanswyth, 
agreed, and forthwith Eustace had sailed for the Cape. He 



i6 



'TWEEN- SiVOW AND FIRE. 



had put a fair amount of capital into the concern and more 
than a fair amount of energy, and at this time the opera- 
tions of the two men were flourishing exceedingly. 

We fear that— human nature being the same all the world 
over, even in that sparsely inhabited locality— there were 
not wanting some— not many it is true, but still some— who 
saw in the above arrangement something to wag a scan- 
dalous tongue over. Carhayes was a prosaic and rather 
crusty personage, many years older than his wife. Eustace 
Milne was just the reverse of this, being imaginative, cul- 
tured, even tempered, and, when he chose, of very attractive 
manner ; moreover, he was but three or four years her senior 
Possibly the rumour evolved itself from the disappoint- 
ment of Its originators, as well as from the insatiable and 
universal love of scandal-mongering inherent in human 
nature, for Eustace Milne was eminently an eligible parti, 
and during nearly a year's residence at Anta's Kloof had 
shown no disposition to throw the handkerchief at any of 
the surrounding fair. But to Carhayes, whom thanks to his 
known proclivity towards punching heads this rumour never 
reached, no such nice idea occurred, for with all his faults 
or failings there was nothing mean or crooked-minded 
about the man, and as for Eanswyth herself, we should have 
been uncommonly sorry to have stood in the shoes of the 
individual who should undertake to enlighten her of the 
same, by word or hint. 

As she stood there watcliing for the return of those 
who came not, Eanswyth began to feel vaguely uneasy, 
and there was a shade of anxiety in the large grey 
eyes, which were bent upon the surrounding veldt with 
a now growing intensity. The return of the flock, 
combined with tiie absence of its master to count in, was 
not a reassuring circumstance. She felt inclined to send 
for the herd and question him, but after all it was of no use 
bemg silly about it. She noted further the non-appearance 
of the other flock. This, in conjunction with the prolonged 
absence of her husband and cousin, made her fear that 
something had gone very wrong indeed. 

Nor was her uneasiness altogether devoid of justification. 
We have said that Tom Carhayes was not on the best of 
terms with his barbarous neighbours. We have shown more- 
over that his choleric disposition was eminently calculated 
to keep him in chronic hot water. Siich was indeed the 



EANSWYTH. 



17 



case. Hardly a week passed that he did not come into 
collision with them, more or less violently, generally on the 
vexed question of trespass, and crossing his farm accom- 
panied by their dogs. More than one of these dogs had 
been shot by him on such occasions, and when we say that 
a Kafir loves his dog a trifle more dearly than his children, 
it follows that the hatred which they cherished towards 
this imperious and high-handed settler will hardly bear 
exaggeration. But Carhayes was a powerful man and 
utterly fearless, and although these qualities had so far 
availed to save his life, the savages were merely biding 
their time. Meanwhile they solaced themselves with secret 
acts of revenge. A thoroughbred horse would be found 
dead in the stable, a valuable cow would be stabbed to 
death in the open veldt, or a fine, full-grown ostrich would 
be discovered with a shattered leg and all its wing-feathers 
plucked, sure sign, the latter, that the damage was due to 
no accident. These acts of retaliation had generally fol- 
lowed within a few days of one of the broils above alluded 
to, but so far from intimidating Carhayes, their only effect 
was to enrage him the more. He vowed fearful and summary 
vengeance against the perpetrators, should he ever succeed 
in detecting them. He even went boldly to the principal 
Gaika chiefs and laid claim to compensation. But those 
magnates were the last men in the world to side with, or to 
help him. Some were excessively civil, others indifferent, 
but all disclaimed any responsibility in the matter. 

Bearing these facts in mind there was, we repeat, every 
excuse for Eanswyth's anxiety. But suddenly a sigh of 
relief escaped her. The tramp of hoofs reaching her ears 
caused her to turn, and there, approaching the house from 
a wholly unexpected direction, came the two familiar 
mounted figures. 



CHAPTER IV. 



" LOVE SETTLING UNAWARES." 

"Well, old girl, and how have you been getting through 
the day," was Carhayes* unceremonious gieetingls he sHd 
from h.s horse. Eustace turned au-ay l.i. head, and the 
famtest shadow of contempt flitted across his mpass ve 
countenance. Had this glorious creature stood in the same 
relationship towards himself he could no more have 

wTft°/ "'t'"'"^ "^'d girl -than he cou d 

have of carvtng his name across the front of the silver altar 

Florence." ^ " Battistero - S 

vJif^'Tr answered smilingly. "And 

" Well, I have, then," rejoined Carhayes, grimly, for Eus- 
tace pretended not to hear. "What you'd call mischief I 
suppose. Now what d'you think? I caught that S/. 
Goniwe having a buck-hunt-a buck-hunt, by Jove ' r gh 
under my very nose; he and three otherniggers. Thef'd 
got two dogs, good dogs too, and I couldn't help admiriiig 
the way the scAe/>se/s put them on by relays, nor ye hf 
fine shot they made at the buck with a kerde. Well I 
rode up and told them to clear out of the liffht because I 
intended to shoot their dogs. Would you belLri Mhey 
didn t budge. Actually squared up to me " ^ 
iously ^'^"'^ ^hoot their dogs," said Eanswythanx- 

*' Didn't I ! one of 'em, that is. Do you think I'm the 
man to be bounced by Jack Kafir ? Nof much J'm not I 
was bound to let da>^ight through the brute, and I did." 
ing pale°'^ " ' " '"'^ ^^^^^^Y^h, in horror, iurn- 

\au2t7''^<Klf''\TT^'^ Carhayes, with a roar of 
• Jh-^^^g^h both, by Jove ! Ask Eustace He 
came up just m tune to be in at the death. But, don't get 

il 



'LOVE SETTLING UNAWARES. 



19 



scared, old girl. I only ' barked ' the nigger, and sent the 
dog to hunt bucks in some other world. I had to do it. 
Those chaps were four to one, you see, and shied kerries 
at me. They had assegais, too." 

"Oh, I don't know what will happen to us one of these 
days ! " she cried, in real distress. "As it is, I am uneasy 
every time you are out in the veldt.'' 

" You needn't be— no fear. Those chaps know me better 
than to attempt any tricks. They're all bark — but when it 
comes to biting they funk off. That schd»i I plugged to- 
day threatened no end of things ; said I'd better have cut 
off my right hand first, because it was better to lose one's 
hand than one's mind — or some such bosh. But do you 
think I attach any importance to that ? I laughed in the 
fellow's face and told him the next time he fell foul of me 
he'd likely enough lose his life — and that would be worse 
still for him." 

Eustace, listening to these remarks, frowned slightly. 
The selfish coarseness of his cousin in thus revealing the 
whole unfortunate episode, with the sure result of doubling 
this delicate woman's anxiety whenever she should be 
left— as she so often was — alone, revolted him. Had he 
been Carhayes he would have kept his own counsel in the 
matter. 

"By the way, "forn," said Eanswyth, "Goniwe hasn't 
brought in his sheep yet, and it's nearly dark." 

" Not, eh?" was the almost shouted reply, accompanied 
by a vehement and undisguised expletive at the expense of 
the defaulter. "He's playing Harry— not a doubt about 
it. I'll make an example of him this time. Rather! Hold 
on. Where's my thickest sjambok ? "* 

He dived into the house, and, deaf to his wife's entreaties 
and expostulations, armed himself with the formidable raw- 
hide whip in addition to his gun, and flinging the bridle 
once more across the horse's neck, sprang into the saddle. 

"Coming, Eustace ?" he cried. 

" No. I think not. The sheep can't be far off, and you 
can easily bring them in, even if, as is not unlikely, Goniwe 
has sloped. Besides, I don't think we ought to leave 
Eanswyth all alone." 

With a spluttered exclamation of impatience, Carhayes 

*A whip, made out of a single piece of rhinocerous, or sea-cow hide, 
tapenng at the point. It is generallyjin the shape of a riding-whip. 



to 



TIVEE.V SNOW AND FIRE. 



clapped spurs to his horse and cantered away down the 
kloof to recover his sheep and execute summary vengeance 
upon their defective herd. 

" Do go after him, Eustace. Don't think about me. I 
don't in the least mind being left alone. Do go. You are 
the only one who can act as a check upon him, and I fear 
he will get himself — all of us — into some terrible scrape. 
I almost hope Goniwe has run away, for if Tom comes 
across him in his present humour he will half kill the 
boy." 

" He won't come across him. On that point you may set 
your mind quite at ease. He will have no opportunity of get- 
ting into hot water, and I certainly shan't think of leaving 
you alone here to-night for the sake of salvaging a few sheep 
more or less. We must make up our minds to lose some, 
I'm afraid, but the bulk of them will be all right." 

" Still, I wish you'd go," she pursued anxiously. " What 
if Tom should meet with any Kafirs in the veldt and quarrel 
with them, as he is sure to do ? " 

" He won't meet any. There isn't a chance of it. Look 
here, Eanswyth ; Tom must take care of himself for once. 
I'm not going to leave you alone here now for the sake of 
fifty Toms." 

" Why ! Have you heard anything fresh?" she queried 
anxiously, detecting a veiled significance in his words. 

"Certainly not. Nothing at all. Haven't been, near 
Komgha for ten days, and haven't seen anyone since. Now, 
I'll just take my horse round to the stable and give him a 
feed — and be with you in a minute." 

As a matter of fact, there was an arrth e pense'e underly- 
ing his words. For Eustace had been pondering over 
Hlangani's strangely worded threat. And it was a strangely 
worded one. " You had better have cut off your right hand 
. . . . for it is better to lose a hand than one's mind." Car- 
hayes had dismissed it contemptuously from his thoughts, 
but Eustace Milne, keen-witted, imaginative, had set to 
work to puzzle it out. Did the Gcaleka chief meditate some 
more subtle and hellish form of vengeance than the ordinary 
and commonplace one of mere blood for blood, and, if so, 
how did he purpose to carry it out? By striking at Carhayes 
through the one who was dearest to him ? Surely. The 
words seemed to bear just this interpretation—and at the 
bare contemplation of a frightful danger hanging over 



"LOVE SETTLING UNAWARES." 



21 



Eanswyth, cool, even-minded Eustace Milne, felt the blood 
flow back to his heart. For he loved her. 

Yes, he loved her. This keen-witted, philosophical man 
of the' world was madly in love with the beautiful wife of 
his middle-aged cousin. He loved her with all the raging 
abandonment of a strong nature that does nothing by 
halves ; yet during nearly a year spent beneath the same roof 

nearly a year of easy, pleasant, social intercourse — never 

by woid or sign had he betrayed his secret — at least, so he 
imagined. 

But that no such blow should fall while he was alive, he 
resolved at all hazards. Why had he come there at all, was 
a question he had been asking himself for some time past ? 
Why had he stayed, why did he stay ? For the latter he 
hated and despised himself on account of his miserable 
weakness. But now it seemed that both were answered— 
that he had been brought there for a purpose— to protect 
her from the fearful consequences entailed by the blunder- 
ing ferocity of him who should have been her first pro- 
tector — to save her from some impending and terrible fate. 
Surely this was sufficient answer. 

Then a wild thrill set his pulses tingling— a thrill of 
joy, of fierce expectation set on foot by a single thought, 
the intense expectation of the gambler who sees fortune 
brought within his reach by the potential turn of chances 
already strong in his favour. They were on the eye of war. 
What might the chances of war not entail > Blind, blun- 
dering Tom Carhayes running his head, like a bull, at every 
stone wall— were not the chances of war increased tenfold 

against such a man as this? And then— and then ? 

No man could be more unfitted to hold possession of such 
a priceless treasure as this— argued the man who did not 
hold it. 

"Confess, Eanswyth, that you are very glad I didn't take 
you at your word and go after Tom," said Eustace, as 
they were sitting cosily at table. 

" Perhaps I am. I have been getting so dreadfully ner- 
vous and low spirited of late — so different to the strong- 
mmded creature I used to be," she said with a rueful smile. 
" I am becoming quite frightened to be left atone. " 

" Are you ? Well, I think I can undertake to promise 
that you shall not be left alone again. One of us must al- 
ways make a point of being around the house while the 



22 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Other IS away. But look here, Eanswyth; I really think vou 
oughtn't to go on staying here at present. Why don't vou 
go down to the Colony and stay in one or ofhe? of ^the 

." I won't do that. And I'm reallv nni- .■i,^ i . r 
for myself. I don't believe the k2s would't rm^"^'' 

the "rpe«^e„Tr^?lrr™"^ ^' - 
me toeTo ZnT" T""",'' ""^'^ '""fde gives 
"^h7u? irief/n^om^f™ ^r/o^L-^r*'"'"^ ^""^^ " 

ran black and bitter. It was all " Tom " and ■■ Tom " ThX 
the deuce had Tom done to deserve all this solictede-and 

hai"s™ad'tif'"'Th"''"='' ".^ obi-' N„rf 

nair s breadth. Then, as she rose from the table and nt 

return, Eustace was conscious of another turn of the snear in 
^.e wound. Why had he arrived on the scene of the fravthlt 

¥h d"efai"o'f L"/""' '° '"'^"""^ ■ ^"SS^^'^'i hisevSgel 

1 ne aeJay of a few minutes, and ' 

fhlT.?''' anything towards persuading you to adopt 
the more prudent course and leave here for a while if I wefe 

morn n/?'' "^^^"^ ^^^^ veJy ^hing th ^ 

mornmg ? said Eustace when she returned. The said 
Josane was a grizzled old Kafir who held the post of cattle 

L'^f^ot^Mi'sToS^r'"^- He was a GcaKt and hid 
nea rrom Kielis country some years previously therehv 

narrowly escaping one of the varied and horrE'forms of 

dea h by torture habitually meted out to those accused of 

his hypothetical ofifence-for he had been smelt out " by 

a witch doctor. He was therefore not likely to throw in his 

bv V^" '^"r'T^" ^^^'"^^ ^^^ite protec?or 

by whom he was looked upon as an intelligent and 
thoroughly trustworthy man, which indeed he wT 

^-^^^^^^^^^ 

Srht'snUtS^h^/m^^^ 



"LOVE SETTLING UNAWARES." 



23 



Eustace, though he had every reason to suppose the 
contrary, said nothing as he rose from the table and began 
to fill his pipe. He was conscious of a wild thrill of delight 
at her steadfast refusal. What would life be worth here 
without that presence ? Well, come what might, no harm 
should fall upon her, of that he made mental oath, 

Eanswyth, having superintended the clearing of the table 
by the two little Kafir girls who filled the rdle of rather in- 
different handmaidens, joined him on the stoep. It was a 
lovely night ; warm and balmy. The dark vault above was 
so crowded with stars that they seemed to hang in golden 
patches. 

" Shall we walk a little way down the kloof and see if we 
can meet Tom," she suggested. 

*' A good idea. Just half a minute though. I want to 
get another pipe," 

He went into his room, slipped a " bull-dog " revolver of 
heavy caliber into his pocket, and quickly rejoined her. 

Then as they walked side by side — they two, alone to- 
gether in the darkness, alone in the sweet, soft beauty of the 
Southern night ; alone, as it were, outside the very world ; 
in a world apart where none might intrude ; the rich shroud 
of darkness around them — Eustace began to wonder if he 
were really made of flesh and blood after all. The pent up 
force of his self-contained and concentrated nature was in 
sore danger of breaking its barriers, of pouring forth the 
fires and molten lava raging within — and to do so would 
be ruin — utter, endless, irretrievable ruin to any hopes which 
he might have ventured to form. 

He could see every feature of that sweet, patrician face 
in the starlight. The even, musical tones of that exquisitely 
modulated voice, within a yard of his ears, fairly maddened 
him. The rich, balmy zephyrs of the African night 
breathed around ; the chirrup of the cricket, and now and 
again the deep-throated booming croak of a bull-frog from 
an adjacent vlei emphasizing iis stillness. Again those 
wild, raging fires surged up to the surface. " Eanswyth, I 
love you — love you — worship you — adore you ! Apart 
from you, life is worse than a blank ! Who, what, is 
the dull, sodden, senseless lout who now stands between us? 
Forget him, darling, and be all heaven and earth to 
me ! " The words blazed through his brain in letters of 



24 



'TWEEN SiXOlV AND FIRE. 



flame. He could hardly feel sure he had not actually 
uttered them. 

"What is the matter, Eustace? I have asked you a 
question three times, and you haven't answered me." 

" I really beg your pardon. I — I — suppose I was think- 
ing of something else. Do you mind asking it again ?" 

The strange harshness of his voice struck her. It was 
well for him — well for both of them — that the friendly dark- 
ness stood him in such good stead. 

"I asked you, how far do you think Tom would have to 
ride before finding the sheep ? " 

" Tom " again ! He fairly set his teeth. " Well into the 
Gaika location," was the savage reply that rose to his lips. 
But he checked it unuttered. 

Oh, not very far," he answered. " You see, sheep are 
slow-moving brutes and difficult to drive, especially in the 
dark. He'll turn up soon, never fear." 

" What is that ? Look ! Listen ! " she e.xclaimed sud- 
denly, laying a hand upon his arm. 

The loom of the mountains was blackly visible in the 
starlight. A;vay in the distance, apparently in the very 
heart of them, there suddenly shown forth a lurid glow. 
The V. shaped scarp of the slopes stood dully in relief 
against the glare, which was as that of a furnace. At the 
same time there floated forth upon the night a strange, 
weird chorus — a wild, long-drawn eerie melody, half chant, 
half howl, faint and distant, but yet distinct, though many 
miles away. 

" What can they be up to at the location, Eustace ? Can 
it be that they have risen already ?" ejaculated Eanswyth, 
turning pale in the starlight. 

The reddening glare intensified, the fierce, wild cadence 
shrilled forth, now in dirge-like wail, now in swelling notes 
of demon-like and merciless exultation. There was a 
faint, muffled roar as of distant thunder — a clamour as of 
fiends holding high revel — and still the wild chorus gathered 
in volume, hideous in its blood-chilling menace, as it cleft 
the dark stillness of the night. 

" Oh, let us turn back ! " cried Eanswyth. " There is 
something horrible going on to-night. I really am quite 
frightened now. That hideous noise ! It terrifies me ! " 

Well it might. The deep-toned thunder note within the 
burning heart of the volcano is of terrible import, for it 



"LOVE SRTTLIN\7 UNA WARES." 



25 



portends fire and ruin and widespread death. There were 

those who were then sitting on the verge of a volcano a 

mere handful in the midst of a vast, teeming population of 
fierce and truculent savages. Well might that weird chorus 
strike dismay into the hearts of its hearers, for it was the 
preliminary rumble of the coming storm — the battle-song of 
the warlike and now hostile Gaika clans. 



CHAPTER V. 



^ THE WAR-DANCE AT NTEYa's KRAAL. 

The sun has just touched the western horizon, bathing 
in a parting flood of red and gold the round spurs of the 
rolling hills and the straggling clusters of dome-shaped 
huts which lie dotted about the valley in irregular order for 
a couple of miles. There is a continuous hum of voices in 
the air, mingling with the low of cattle, and the whole place 
seems to be teeming with human life. Indeed, such is the 
case ; for this kraal — or rather collection of kraals — is the 
head centre of Nteya's location and the residence of that 
chief himself. 

Each group of huts owns its cattle inclosure, whose dark 
space, girdled with a strong thorn palisade, is now filled with 
the many coloured forms of its horned denizens. It is milk- 
ing time, and the metallic squirt of liquid into the zinc pails 
rises rhythmic above the deep hum of the monotonous chant 
of the milkers. Women step forth from the kraal gates 
balancing the full pails on their heads, their ochre-smeared 
bodies shining tike new flower pots, while their lords, reim 
in hand, set to work to catch a fresh cow— for among Kafirs 
milking is essentially man's work. About the huts squat 
other groups of natives, men smoking their queer shaped, 
angular pipes, and exchanging indabaj * women also smok- 
ing, and busy with their household affairs, whether of the 
culinary or nursery order; round bellied, beady-eyed children 
tumbling over each other in their romps, and dogs ever on 
the prowl to pick up a stray bone, or to obtain a surrepti- 
tious lick at the interior of a cooking pot ; and over all the 
never-ending flow of voices, the deep bass of the men 
blending with the clearer feminine treble, but all rhythmic 
and pleasing, for the language and voices of the Bantu 
races are alike melodious. The blue reek of wood-smoke 
rising upon the evening air, mingles with that pungent 
odour of grease and kine inseparable from every Kafir 
kraal. 

* Gossip or news. 
a6 



THE WAR.DANCE AT iVTEYA'S KRAAL. 27 



That something unwonted is impending here to-night is 
manifest. Men would start suddenly from beside their 
fellows and gaze expectantly out upon the approaches to 
the kraal, or now and again the heads of a whole group 
would turn in eager scrutiny of the surrounding veldi. For 
strung out upon the hillsides in twos and threes, or in 
parties of ten or a dozen, some mounted, some afoot, come 
a great number of Kafirs. On they come : those who are 
mounted kicking their shaggy little ponies into a headlong 
gallop; those who are not, starting into a run, leaping into 
the air, singing, or now and again venting a shrill and ear- 
splitting whistle. From far and near — from every direction 
converging upon the kraal, on they come. And they are all 
armed. 

The excitement in the kraal itself intensifies. All rise 
to their feet to receive the newcomers, each group of whom 
is greeted with boisterous shouts of welcome. Snatches of 
war-songs rise upon the air, and the rattle of assegai hafts 
blends with the barbaric melody. Still, pouring in from 
all sides, come fresh arrivals, and by the time the sun has 
shot his last fading ray upon the stirring scene, the kraal 
cannot have contained far short of a thousand men. 

Near the principal group of huts stands a circular inclos- 
ure about fifty yards in diameter. Above the thorn fence 
bristle the great branching horns of oxen. To this point 
all eyes are now turned, and the deafening clamour of 
voices is hushed in expectation of a new diversion. 

A narrow opening is made in the fence and half a dozen Ka- 
firsenter. An ox is turned out. No sooner is the poor beast 
clear of the fence than it is suddenly seen to plunge and 
fall forward in a heap, stabbed to the heart by a broad 
bladed assegai. The slaughterer steps back to his lurking 
position and stands with arm upraised. Quickly another ox 
follows upon the first. The weapon, now dimmed and 
reddened with blood, flashes in the air. The second ani- 
mal plunges forward dead. A third follows, with like result. 

Then, scenting danger, and terrified moreover by the 
crowd which is gathering outside, the beasts stubbornly re- 
fuse to move. They huddle together with lowered heads, 
backing away from the opening and emitting the muffled, 
moaning noise evoked in cattle by the scent of blood. In 
vain their would-be drivers shout and goad them with 
assegais. Move they will not. 



38 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Another opening is made on the opposite side to that of 
the first. After some trouble two oxen are driven through. 
They rush out together, one falling by the hand of the 
lurking slaughterer, the other meeting a speedy death at the 
assegais of the spectators. 

There still remain upwards of a dozen within the kraal, 
but of these not one can be induced to pass out. Panic 
stricken they huddle together closer still, until at last, their 
terror giving way to a frenzy of rage, the maddened brutes 
turn and furiously charge their tormentors. The air is rent 
with savage bellowings and the clashing of horns. The 
dust flies in clouds from the rumbling earth as the frenzied 
creatures tear round and round the inclosure. Two of the 
Kafirs, less agile or less fortunate than their fellows, are 
flung high in the air, falling with a lifeless thud among the 
spectators outside ; then, crashing through the fence in a 
body, the panic stricken bullocks stream forth into the 
open, scattering the crowd right and left before the fury of 
their rush. 

Then ensues a wild and stirring scene. Their great 
horns lowered, the infuriated animals course madly through 
the village, each beset by a crowd of armed savages whose 
dark, agile forms, avoiding the fierce impetus of their 
charge, may be seen to spring alongside, plying the deadly 
assegai. One turns suddenly and heads straight for its 
pursuers, bellowing hideously. Like magic the crowd 
parts, there is a whizz of assegais in the air, and the poor 
beast crashes earthward, bristling with quivering assegai 
hafts, as a pin cushion with pins. Yelling, whistling like 
fiends, in their uncontrollable excitement, the savages dart 
in and out among the fleeing beasts, and the red firelight 
gleams upon assegai points and rolling eyeballs, and the 
air rings with the frenzied bellowing of the pursued, and 
the wild shouts of the pursuers. 

But it cannot last long. Soon the mad fury of the 
chase gives way to the nau.seous accompaniments of a 
slaughter house on a large scale. In an incredibly short 
space of time, each of the bullocks is reduced to a disjointed 
heap ,of flesh and bones. Men, staggering beneath huge 
slabs of quivering meat, make their way to the fires, leav- 
ing the dogs to snarl and quarrel over an abundant repast 
of steaming offal. 

The great joints frizzle and sputter over the red 



THE WAR- DANCE AT NTEYA'S KRAAL. 



29 



coals. Squatted around, a hungry gleam in their eyes, the 
Kafirs impatiently watch each roasting morsel Then 
hardly waiting until it is warmed through, they drag the meat 
from the fire. Assegais are plied, and soon ^he huge joints 
are reduced to strips of half-raw flesh, and the champing of 
hundreds of pairs of jaws around each red blaze takes the 
place of the deep bass hum of conversation, as the savages 
throw all their energies into the assimilation of their un- 
wonted meaK* It is like a cannibal feast-the smoky flare 
of the great fires-the mighty slabs of red flesh-the fierce 
firdigh^t"''^' ^^^^^^ around-the gleam of weapons in the 
At length even the very bones are picked clean, and 
thrown over the feasters' shoulders to the dogs Then 
voices are raised and once more the kraal becomes a scene 
of wild and excited stir. Roused by a copious indulgence 
m an unwonted .stimulant, the Kafirs leap to their feet 
Weapons are brandished, and the firelight glows uoon 
assegai pomts and rolling eyeballs. A wild war-song rises 
upon the air; then falling into circular formation, the whole 
£1 , ^''^^^f beating time with their 

feet— clashing the hefts of their weapons together The 
weird rhythm IS led off in a high, wailing key by a kind 
oi choragus xh^n taken up by the rest, rising louder and 
louder, and the thunder of hundreds of pairs of feet keen- 
nig regular time, make the very earth itself tremble, and the 
quivering rattle of assegai hafts is echoed back from the 
dark, brooding hills, and the volume of the fierce and threat- 
emng song, with its final chorus of " Hi— h^— hk ' " be 
comes as the mad roaring of a legion of wild beasts* 
ravaging for blood. Worked up to a degree of incontro U 
able excitement, the savages foam at the lips anS their 
eyeballs seem to start from the sockets, as turning to each 
other they go through the pantomime of encountering and 
slaying an imaginary foe ; and even in the backgroifnd a 
number of women have formed up behind the dancing war- 
nors and vyith more than all the barbarity of the latter are 
playing at beating out the brains of the wounded with knob- 

rZJt^T^' ^^"^^^ raeat was very sparingly eaten among the Amaxosa 
""^"^ ^'^'"^ =t«P'e ^"-ticles of diet Wherem- 

ei/c 'upra'LooTS ?,V'r l'""'"'^' ^ curiously stTmulaUng 



JO 'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 

kerries The roar and rattle of the hideous performance 
goes up to the heavens, cleaving the solemn s.lence of he 
fwpet African night. The leapmg, bounding, perspir ng 
sLpes loT?ru"y devilish in the red firelight. The excite- 
ment o the fierce savages seems to have reached a pitch 
Uttle short of downright frenzy. Yet it shows no signs of 
abating. For they have eaten meat. 



CHAPTER VI. 



HLANGANI, THE HERALD. 

Suddenly, as if by magic, the wild war-dance ceased, 
and the fierce, murderous rhythm v/as reduced to silence. 
Sinking down in a half-sitting posture, quivering with sup- 
pressed excitement, their dark forms bent forward like those 
of so many crouching leopards, their eyeballs rolling in 
the lurid glow, the Kafirs rested eagerly, awaiting what 
was to follow. 

A group of chiefs advanced within the circle of light. 
A little in front of these, prominent among them by reason 
of his towering stature and herculean build, was a warrior 
of savage and awe-inspiring aspect. His countenance 
bore an evil, scowling sneer, which looked habitual, and 
his eyes glowed like live coals. He wore a headdress of 
monkey skins, above which waved a tuft of plumes from the 
tail of the blue crane. His body was nearly naked, and 
his muscular limbs, red with ochre, were decorated with 
fringes of cows' tails and tufts of flowing hair. On his left 
arm, above the elbow, he wore a thick, square armlet of 
solid ivory, and in his hand he carried a large, broad- 
bladed assegai. One shoulder was swathed in a rude 
bandage, the latter nearly concealed by fantastic hair 
adornments. 

Ahum of suppressed eagerness went round the crowd of 
excited barbarians as this man stood forth in their midst. 
It subsided into a silence that might be felt as he spoke : 

" I am Hlangani, the son of Ngcesiba, the Herald of the 
Great Chief Sarili,* the son of Hintza, of the House of 
Gcaleka. Hear my word, for it is the word of Sarili, the 
Great Chief — the chief paramount of all the children of 
Xosa. 

" This is the word of the Great Chief to his children of 
the House of Ngqika.f Lo, the time has come when the 
Amangl^zi J seek a quarrel with us. We can no longer live 

* Or Kreli. See note on p. 6. \ Or Gaika. % English. 

31 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



s|de by side, say they. There is no room for the Ama- 
Gcai^ka in the land they have hitherto dwelt in They 
must go. ' 

" So they have located our dogs, the cowardly Amafengu 
(Fingoe.s), our slaves and our dogs, on the next land to 
ours, that we may have a continual plague to scourge us 
that our sides may be wrung with the pest of these stinging 
flies, that our name may be spat upon and laughed at by 
those who were our own dogs. Thus would these English 
provoke us to quarrel. 

" Who were these Amafengu ? Were they not our dogs 
and our slaves > Who are they now ? Still dogs— but not 
our dogs. Who will they be shortly ? Not our dogs— not 
Gur slaves— but— our masters! Our masters ! " roared the 
fierce savage, shaking the broad assegai which he held, 
untd It quivered like a band of flame in the red firelight 
" The sons of Gcal^ka will be the slaves of their former 
slaves— the dogs of their former dogs. Not the sons of 
Gcaleka only, but all the children of Xosa. Not the House 
of Gcal^ka only, but the House of Ngqika. Who is doing 
this ? The Amanglezi! Who would tread upon the necks 
of our chiefs and place the fetters of their lying and hypo- 
critical creeds upon the limbs of our young men till the 
latter are turned into slaves and drunkards? The 
Amanglezi! Who would stop the mouths of our ama- 
pakati* and drown the collective wisdom of our nation in 
floods of fire-water? The Amanglezi. Are we men— I 
say ? Are we men ? ' 

A low suppressed roar ran through the circle of fierce 
and excitable barbarians as the orator paused. Again 
sounded the ominous rattle of assegai hafts. It needed ail 
the self-control of their habitually self-contained race to 
restrain them from breaking forth "ai;ew into their frenzied 
war-dance. But a wave of the speaker's hand availed to 
quel! the rising tumult and he continued 

"This is the 'word' of the rulers of tne Amanglezi. 
The time has come when the Amaxosa races must be sub- 
dued. They are growing too numerous. They are waxing 
too strong. Their power must be broken. We must begin 
by breaking up the influence of the chiefs. We must put 
down chieftainship altogether. Hear ye this, ye sons of 
Ngqika ? Hear you this, O Matanzima, warrior son ot 

* Councillors. 



HLANGANI, THE HERALD. 



33 



Sandili, the Great Chief of the House of Ngqika > Hear 
you this, O Nteya— /^z/^a/'; of the race of Ngqika ? Hear 
you this, O Nxabahlana, of the House of the Great Chief 
you who have ted our bands to war before the very birth 
of many of the young men I see before me > Hear ye 
this, Maquades and Mpanhla and Sivulele, and you Pan 
ganisi and Untiwa, of the House of Seyolo of the House 
of Hlambi, golden mouthed in council— in the battle field 
flames of consuming fire ? Hear ye this, all ye gathered 
here before me this night— tried warriors, and young- men 
who have never seen war. The children of Xosa are 
grovving too strong. They must be subdued. The power 
of their chiefs must be broken. Such is the word of the 
rulers of the Amanglezi," 

This time, as the orator paused, there was no restraining 
the fierce excitement of his hearers. Each warrior named 
who had greeted the mention of himself with a low but 
emphatic " hd "—now sprang to his feet. No further ex- 
ample was needed. Again the wild rhythm of the war- 
song rose upon the night ; again the fierce thunder-roll of 
the tread of hundreds of feet shook the ground. Again 
the circle of firelight was alive with grim, threatening 
forms, swaying in measured time, to the unearthly chant 
to the accompaniment of the shaking of fantastic adorn- 
ments, to the quivering rattle of assegai hafts. For some 
niinutes this continued-then when the excitement was 
almost at Its height, a mysterious signal was given and the 
whole wi d crowd dropped quickly into its listening atti- 
tude again. ^ 

"Such is the word of the Amanglezi," went on the 
speaker. " Now hear the word of Sarili, your father the 
Paramount Chief, the father of all the children of Xosa 
Hear the word of the Great Chief conveyed by the mouth 
of Hlangani, the herald-' Lo, the time has come when 
we must unite in the strength of brethren. The 
Amanglezi are urging our very dogs on to provoke us. 
The Amafengu are located on our borders, to taunt and 
eer at our young men-to lure our young women over in- 
tJ^r ^"^'y «f G^^l^ka may be de- 

haonen h'''- ^ ^'^7 passes that this does not 

happen. Why do we not revenge this? Why do we not 

who "snirr'''" upon thesl dogs 
Who spit at our name and nation ? We dare not. The 



34 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Amanglezi say : " Your dogs are now our dogs. Touch 
them and we shall send armies of soldiers and you will be 
eaten up " — But, dare we not ? Dare we not ? Answer 
me, all ye children of the race of Xosa! I, Sarili, your 
father, call upon you— I, Sarili, your chief. Answer! 
Show that the war-fire of our free and warrior race is not 
dead. It has been smouldering for many years, but it is 
not dead. It is ready to break forth as the destroying 
lightning leaps from the black thunder cloud. It is ready 
to blaze forth in its strength and to consume all within its 
reach. 

'"Where is my father, Hintza? Where is he who was 
lured into the white man's camp by fair promises and then 
shot down ? Do I not hear his spirit calling unto me day and 
night. 1 cannot sleep, for the spirit of my father is crying 
for vengeance. It is crying day and night from the depths. 
Yet, not to me only. Who was Hintza ? My father, yet not 
my father only. The father of all the sons of Xosa! 

*"Lo, the white Governor has summoned me, your chief, 
to meet him. He has invited me, your chief, with fair prom- 
ises to visit him at his camp. Shall I go, that I, Sarili, may 
meet with the same dealing that laid low my father, Hintza? 
I will, indeed, go, but it will be with the whole array of the 
fighting men of the Amaxosa at my back. 

" ' Hear my "word," my children of the House of Nteya,/)a- 
katioi\.\\& raceof Ngqika. Hear ray "word" as spoken through 
the mouth of Hlangani, my herald. Receive these oxen as 
a present from your father to his children. Eat them, and 
when you have eaten and your hearts are strong, stand pre- 
pared. Let the war-cry roll through the mountains and 
valleys of our fair land. Let the thunder of your war-dances 
shake the earth as the reeds by the water side quiver beneath 
the rushing of the storm wind. Let the trumpet tongues of 
your war-fires gleam from the mountain tops — tongue roar- 
ing to tongue — that the Amanglezi may hear it and 
tremble; for the spirit of Hintza, my father, which has 
slumbered for years, is awake again and is crying for ven- 
geance — is crying and crying aloud that the time has come.'" 

The speaker ceased. A dead silence fell upon his hearers 
—a weird silence upon that tumultuous crowd crouching 
in eager expectancy in the red firelight. Suddenly, upon 
the black gloom of the night, far away to the eastward, there 
gleamed forth a streak of flame. Then another and another. 



HLANGANI, THE HERALD. 



35 



A subdued roar ran around the circle. Then, as by magic, 
a crimson glare fell upon the serried ranks of expectant 
listeners, lighting up their fantastic war panoply as with 
the light of day. From the hill top above the kraal there 
shot up a great tongue of red flame. It leaped high into 
the velvety blackness of the heavens. Splitting up into 
many a forking flash it roared in the air — the gleaming ra3's 
licking up into a cloud of lurid smoke which blotted out 
the stars in its reddening folds. The distant war signal 
of the Gcaleka chieftain was answered. 

"Ha!" cried Hlangani, in a voice of thunder. "Ha! 
Now will the heart of your father, Sarili, be glad. Now 
have ye proved yourselves his children indeed, oh, sons of 
Ngqika ! Now have you proved yourselves men, for the 
trumpet tongues of your war-flames are crying aloud — 
tongue roaring to tongue upon the wings of the night." 

With the quickness of lightning the warriors had again 
thrown themselves into formation, and now worked up to a 
pitch of uncontrollable excitement, the unearthly cadence of 
the war-song rose into a fiendish roar, and the thunder of the 
demon dance rolled and reverberated among the hills, while 
lighting up the fierce array of grim, frenzied figures in its 
brooding glare, the huge beacon,- high above on the hilltop, 
blazed forth sullenly upon the night in all its menacing 
and destructive significance. 

Suddenly, as if by magic, the mad orgy of the savages 
was suspended. For advancing into their very midst — fear- 
lessly, boldly, contemptuously, even — rode a solitary horse- 
man — a white man, an Englishman. 



CHAPTER VII. 



IN THE lion's den. 

Every eye was bent upon the new arrival. With a quick, 
instinctive movement tlie savages closed around the fool- 
hardy Englishman. There was a scowl of deadly import 
upon each grim face. Hundreds of assegais were poised 
with a quiver of suppressed eagerness. The man's life 
seemed not worth a moment's purchase. 

" Out of ray way, you schepsels / " he cried roughly, urg- 
ing his horse through the sullen and threatening crowd, as 
though so many hundreds of armed and excited barbarians 
worked up to the highest pitch of blood-thirstiness were 
just that number of cowering and subservient slaves. " Out 
of my way, do you hear ? Where is Nteya ? I want Nteya, 
the chief. Where is he ? " 

" Here I am, umhingu* What do you want with me ? " 
answered Nteya — making a rapid and peremptory signal to 
restrain the imminent resentment of his followers. " Am I 
not always here, that you should break in upon me in this 
violent manner ? Do / go \.o your house, and ride up to the 
door and shout for you as though you were stricken with 
sudden deafness ? " 

The chief's rebuke, quiet and dignified, might have car- 
ried some tinge of humiliation to any man less overbearing 
and hot-headed than Tom Carhayes, even as the low 
growl of hardly contained exasperation which arose from 
the throng might have conveyed an ominous warning. 
But upon this man both were alike thrown" away. Yet 
it may be that the very insanity of his foolhardiness 
constituted his safety. Had he quailed but a moment his 
doom was sealed. 

"I didn't come here to hold an iiidaba," \ he shouted. 
" I want my sheep. I^ook here, Nteya. You have put me 
off very cleverly time after time with one excuse or another. 
But this time you are pagadi.X I've run you to earth — or 



* White man. 



f Talk— palaver. 
3« 



\ Cornered. 



m THE LTOM'S DEI^. 



rather some of those schepsels of yours. That young villain 
Goniwe has driven off thirty-seven of my sheep, and two of 
your fellows have helped him. I've spoored them right 
into your location as straight as a line. Now " 

" When was this, Umlilwane ? " said Nteya, impertur- 
bably. 

" When ? Wiien ? To-night, man. This very night, do 
you hear ? " roared the other. 

*' Hau ! The white man has the e^es of twenty vultures 
that he can see to follow the spoor of thirty-seven sheep on 
a dark night," cried a mocking voice — and a great shout of 
derisive laughter went up from the whole savage crowd. 
The old chief, however, preserved his dignified and calm 
demeanour. 

"You are excited, Umlilwane," he said — a faint smile 
lurking round the corners of his mouth. " Had you not 
better go home and return in the morning and talk things 
over quietly ? Surely you would not forget yourself like a 
boy or a quarrelsome old woman." 

If a soft answer turneth away wrath, assuredly an injunc- 
tion to keep cool to an angry man conduceth to a precisely 
opposite result. If Carhayes had been enraged before, his 
fury now rose to white heat. 

" You infernal old scoundrel ! " he roared. " Don't I 
tell you I have spoored the sheep right bang into your 
kraal ? They are here now, I tell you ; here now. And you 
try to put me off with your usual Kafir lies and shuffling." 
And shaking with fury he darted forth his hand, which 
still held the heavy rhinocerous hide sjambok, as though he 
would have struck the chief then and there. But Nteya 
did not move. 

'^Hauf" cried Hlangani, who had been a silent but 
attentive witness to this scene. " Hau ! Thus it is that the 
chiefs of the Amaxosa are trampled on by these abelilngu 
(whites). Are we men, I say? Are we men ?" And the 
eyes of the savage flashed with terrible meaning as he waved 
his hand in the direction of the foolhardy English- 
man. 

Thus was the spark applied to the dry tinder. The crowd 
surged forward. A dozan sinewy hands gripped the bridle, 
and in a moment Carhayes was flung violently to the 
earth. 

Stunned, half-senseless he lay. Assegais flashed in the 



38 



*TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



firelight. It seemed that the unfortunate settler's hours 
were numbered. Another moment and a score of bright 
blades would be buried in his body. 

But a stern and peremptory mandate from the chief ar- 
rested each impending stroke. 

" Stop, my children ! " cried Nteya, standing over the 
prostrate man and extending his arms as though to ward 
off the deadly blows. " Stop, my children ! I, your chief ; 
I, your father, command it. Would you play into the hands 
of your enemies? Be wise, 1 say. Be wise in time." 

Sullenly the crowd fell back. With weapons still uplifted, 
with eyes hanging hungrily upon their chief's face, like 
tigers balked momentarily of their prey, the warriors 
paused. And the dull, brooding glare of the signal fire 
flashing aloft upon the hilltop fell redly upon that fierce 
and threatening sea of figures standing over the prostrate 
body of their hated and now helpless enemy. But the 
word of a Kafir chief is law to his followers. There was 
no disputing that decisive mandate. 

" Rise, Umlilwane," went on Nteya. " Rise, and go in 
peace. In the evening, when the blood is heated, it is not 
well to provoke strife by angry words. In the morning, 
when heads are cool, return here and talk. If your sheep 
are here, they shall be restored to you. Now go, while it 
is yet safe." 

Carhayes, still half-stunned by the violence of his fall, 
staggered to his feet. 

"If they are here! " he repeated sullenly. "Damn it, 
they are here ! " he blazed forth in a fresh access of wrath, 
Then catching the malevolent glance of Hlangani. and 
becoming alive to the very sinister and menacing expres- 
sion on the countenances of the other Kafirs, even he began 
to realise that some degree of prudence was desirable, not 
to say essential. " Well, well, it's the old trick again, but 
I suppose our turn will come soon," he growled, as he pro- 
ceeded to mount his horse. 

The crowd parted to make way for him, and amid omi- 
nous mutterings and an unpleasantly suggestive shaking of 
weapons towards hira, he rode away as he had come. 
None followed hira. The chief's eye was upon his receding 
figure. I'he chief's " word " had been given. But even 
protected by that safe conduct, he would be wise to put as 
much space as possible between himself and that sullen 



IN THE LION'S DEN. 



39 



and warlike gathering, and that, too, with the greatest des- 
patch. 

None followed him — at the moment. But Hlangani 
mixed unperceived among the crowd, whispering a word 
here and a word there. And soon, by twos and threes, a 
number of armed savages stole silently forth into the night, 
moving swiftly upon the retreating horseman's track. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



" ON- THE ROCK THEY SCORCH, LIKE A DROP OF FIRE." 

" What are they really doing over there, do you suppose, 
Eustace ? " said Eanswyth anxiously, as they regained the 
house. The thunder of the wild war-dance floated across 
the intervening miles of space, and the misty glare of many 
fires luridly outlined the distant mountain slopes. The 
position was sufficiently terrifying to any woman alone 
there save for one male protector, with hundreds of excited 
and now hostile savages performing their weird and clam- 
orous war rites but a few miles away. 

"I'm afraid there's no mistake about it ; they are holding 
a big war dance," was the reply. "But it's nothing new. 
This sort of fun has been going on at the different kraals 
for the last month. It's only because we are, so to say, 
next door to Nteya's location that we hear it to-night at 
all," 

" But Nteya is such a good old man," said Eanswyth. 
" Surely he wouldn't harm us. Surely he wouldn't join in 
any rising." 

"You are correct in your first idea, in the second, not. 
We are rapidly making such a hash of affairs in re Kreli 
and the Fingoes over in the Transkei, that we are simply 
laying the train for a war with the whole Amaxosa race. 
How can Nteya, or any other subordinate chief, refuse to 
join when called upon by Kreli, the Chief Paramount. 
The trouble ought to be settled before it goes any further, 
and my opinion is that it could be." 

" You are quite a politician," said Eanswyth, with a smile. 
" You ought to put up for the Secretaryship for Native 
Affairs." 

" Let us sit out here," he said, drawing up a couple of 
cane chairs which were always on the stoep. " Here is a very 
out-of-the-way phenomenon— one the like of which we 
might not witness again in a lifetime. We may as well see 
it out." 



•'OJV THE ROCK THEY SCORCH." 



41 



If Eanswyth had been rather alarmed heretofore, the 
other's perfect unconcern went far to reassure her. The 
wild, unearthly 'chorus echoing through the darkness — the 
glare of the fires, the distant, but thundrous clamour of the 
savage orgy, conveyed no terrors to this strong- nerved and 
philosophical companion of hers. He only saw in them a 
strange and deeply interesting experience. Seated there 
in the starlight, some of that unconcern communicated itself 
to her. A restful calm came upon her. This man beside 
her was as a very tower of strength. And then came over 
her a consciousness — not for the first time, but stronger than 
she had ever felt it — of how necessary his presence was to 
her. His calm, strong judgment had kept matters straight 
for a long time past. He had been the one to pour oil on 
the troubled waters ; to allay or avert the evils which her 
husband's ungovernable temper and ill-judged violence had 
thickly gathered around them. Now, as he sat there beside 
her calmly contemplating the sufficiently appalling manifes- 
tations of that night — manifestations that would other- 
wise have driven her wild with terror — she was conscious of 
feeling hardly any fear. 

And what of Eustace himself ? Lucky, indeed, that his 
judgment was strong, his brain habitually clear and un- 
clouded. For at that moment his mind could only be com- 
pared to the seething, misty rush of a whirlpool. He could 
see her face in the starlight — even the lustrous glow of the 
great eyes — could mark the clear outline or the delicate pro- 
file turned half away from him. He was alone with her in 
the sweet, soft African night — alone with her — her sole pro- 
tector, amid the brooding peril that threatened. A silence 
had fallen between them. His love — his concealed and 
hopeless love for her overcame him. He could not com- 
mand words — ^not even voice, for the molten, raging fires 
of passion which consumed him as he sat there. His hand 
clenched the arm of his cane chair — a jagged nail, which 
protruded, lacerating it nearly to the bone — still he felt 
nothing of physical pain — mind triumphed. 

Yes, the anguish of his mind was so intense as to be akin 
to physical pain. Why could they not be thus together al- 
ways? They could, but for one life. One life only, be- 
tween him and such bliss that the whole world should be a 
bright and golden paradise ! One life ! A legion of fiends 
seemed to wrestle within the man's raging soul, " One 



42 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



life ! " they echoed in jibbering, gnashing chorus, " One 
life ! " they seemed to shriek aloud in his brain. " What 
more easily snapped than the cord of a life ? " 

The tumultuous thunder of the fierce war-dance sounded 
louder and louder upon the night — the glare of the distant 
fires reddened, and then glowed forth afresh. What if 
Tom Carhayes had come upon the spoor of his missing 
sheep — and in his blind rage had followed it right into 
Nteya's location ? Might he not as well walk straight into a 
den of lions? The savage Gaikas, wound up to the high- 
est pitch of bloodthirsty excitement, would at such a time 
be hardly less dangerous than so many beasts of prey. Even 
at that very moment the cord of that one life might be 
snapped. 

Suddenly a great tongue of flame shot up into the night, 
then another and another. From a hilltop the red and 
threatening beacons flashed forth their message of hate and 
defiance. The distant tumult of the savage orgy had 
ceased. A weird and brooding silence lay upon the sur- 
rounding country. 

" Oh, what does it mean? What does it all mean?" 
cried Eanswyth starting up from her chair. Her face was 
white with fear — her dilated eyes, gazing forth upon the 
gushing fires, were wild and horror-stricken. Eustace, 
standing there at her side, could hardly restrain himself 
from throwing his arms around her and pouring out a 
passionate storm of comforting, loving words. Yet she be- 
longed to another man — was bound to him until death 
should them part. But what if death had already parted 
them ? What if she were so bound no longer? he thought 
with a fierce, wild yearning that had in it something of the 
murderer's fell purpose, as he strained his gaze upon the 
wild signals of savage hostility. 

" Don't be frightened, Eanswyth," he said reassuringly, 
but in a voice from which even he could not banish every 
trace of emotion. " You shall come to no harm to-night, 
dear, take my word for it. To-morrow, though, we must 
take you to some safer place than this is likely to prove 
for the next few days." 

She made no answer. He had drawn his arm through 
hers and the strong, reassuring touch seemed to dispel her 
fears. It seemed to him that she leaned upon him, as 
though for physical support no less than for mental. Thus 



"ON THE ROCK THEY SCORCH." 



43 



they stood, their figures silhouetted in the dull red glow. 
Thus they stood, the face of the one stormy with conflicting 
emotions — that of the other calm, restful, safe in that firm 
protecting companionship. Thus they stood, and to one of 
these two that isolated position in the midst of a brooding 
peril represented the sweetest, most ecstatic moment that 
life had ever afforded. And still upon the distant hilltops, 
gushing redly upward into the velvety darkness, the war- 
fires of the savages gleamed and burned. 

" We had better go in now," said Eustace, after a while, 
when the flaming beacons had at length burnt low. " You 
must be tired to death by this time, and it won't do to sit 
out here all night. You must have some rest." 

" I will try," she answered. " Do you know, Eustace, 
there is a something about you that seems to put everything 
right. I am not in the least frightened now." 

There was a softness in her tone that bordered upon 
tenderness — a softness that was dangerous indeed to a man 
in his frame of mind. 

" Ah ! you find that, do you ? " he answered, in a strained, 
harsh, unnatural voice. Then his utterance seemed choked. 
Their eyes met in the starlight — met in a long, clinging 
gaze — then their lips. Yet, she belonged to another man, 
and — a life stood between these two. 

Thus to that extent Eustace Milne, the cool-headed, the 
philosophic, had allowed the impulse of his mad passion to 
overmaster him. But before he could pour forth the unre- 
strained torrent of words which should part them there and 
then forever, or bind them more closely for weal or for woe, 
Eanswyth suddenly wrenched herself from his close embrace. 
A clatter of rapidly approaching hoofs was borne upon the 
night. 

" It's Tom ! " she cried, at the same time fervently bless- 
ing the friendly darkness which concealed her burning 
face. " It must be Tom, What can he have been doing 
with himself all this time ? " 

" Rather ! It's Tom, right enough, or what's left of him !" 
echoed the loud, well-known voice, as the horseman rode 
up to the stoep and flung himself from the saddle. "What's 
left of him," he repeated grimly. " Can't you strike a 
light, Eanswyth, instead of standing there staring at a man 
as if he had actually been cut into mincemeat by those in- 
fernal brutes, instead of having only had a very narrow 



44 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



escape from that same," he added testily, striding past her 
to enter the house, which up till now had been left in dark- 
ness for prudential reasons, lest by rendering it more con- 
spicuous the sight might tempt their savage neighbours, in 
their present ugly humour, to some deed of violence and 
outrage. 

A lamp was quickly lighted, and then a half-shriek es- 
caped Eanswyth. For her husband presented a ghastly 
spectacle. He was hatless, and his thick brown beard was 
matted with blood, which had streamed down the side of 
his face from a wound in his head. One of his hands, too, 
was covered with blood, and his clothes were hacked and 
cut in several places. 

"For Heaven's sake, Eanswyth, don't stand there 
screechmg like an idiotic schoolgirl, but run and get out 
some grog, for I want an ' eye opener ' badly, I can tell you," 
he burst forth with an angry stamp of the foot. " Then get 
some water and clean rag, and bandage me up a bit— for 
besides the crack on the head you see I've got at least half 
a dozen assegai stabs distributed about my carcase." 

Pale and terrified, Eanswyth hurried away, and Carhayes, 
who had thrown himself on the sofa, proceeded growlingly 
to give an account of the rough usage he had been sub- 
jected to. He must have been stealthily followed, he said, 
for about half an hour after leaving Nteya's kraal he had 
been set upon in the darkness by a party of Kafirs. So 
sudden was the assault that they had succeeded in snatch- 
ing his gun away from him before he could use it. A blow 
on the head with a kerrie— a whack which would have 
floored a weaker man— he parenthesized grimlv and with 
ill-concealed pride— -having failed to knock him off his 
horse, the savages endeavoured to stab him with their 
assegais— and in fact had wounded him in several places. 
Fortunately for him they had not succeeded in seizing his 
bridle, or at any rate in retaining hold of it, or his doom 
would have been sealed. 

" The chap who tried it on dropped under my stirrup- 
iron," explained Carhayes. "I ' downed ' him, by the liv- 
ing Jingo ! He'll never kick again, I do believe. That 
scoundrel Nteya promised I shouldn't be molested, the 
living dog! There he was, the old scheim, he and our 
friend of to-day, Hlangani— and Matanzima, old Sandili's 
son, and Sivul^le, and a lot of them, haranguing the rest. 



"ON THE ROCK TIIEY SCORCH." 



45 



They mean war. There couldn't have besn less than 
iSix or seven hundred of them- all holding a big war-dance 
got up in their feathers and fal-lals. What do you think of 
that, Eustace .> And in I went bang into the very thick 
of them." 

" I knew it would come to this one of these days, Tom," 
said Eanswyth, who now reappeared with the necessary 
refreshment, and water and towels for dressing his 
. wounds. 

\ " Of course you did," retorted her husband, with a sav- 
age snarl. "You wouldn't be a woman if you didn't my 
dear. ' I told you so,' ' I told you so,'— isn't that a woman's 
mvariable parrot cry. Instead of * telling me so,' suppose 
you set to work and see what you can do for a fellow. 
Eh ? 

Eustace turned away to conceal the white fury that was 
blasting him. Why had the Kafirs done things by halves > 
I Why had they not completed their work and rid the earth 
j of a coarse-minded brute who simply encumbered it. From 
[ that moment he hated his cousin with a secret and bitter 
, hatred. And this was the life that stood between him 
\ and — Paradise. 

: Tom Carhayes was indeed in a vile humour— not on ac- 
count of the wounds he had received, ugly as some of them 
^ere ; for he was not lacking in brute courage or endurance 
IBut his wrath burnt hot against the insolent daring of his 
r assailants, who had presumed to attack him, who had, more- 
over, done so treacherously, had robbed him of his gun, as 
well as of a number of sheep, and had added insult to in- 
[jury by laughing in his face when he asked for re- 
t dress. 

L '*ril be even with them. I will, by the living Jingo !" 
»e snarled as he sat sipping his brandy and water— while 
^Eanswyth, still pale and agitated from the various and 
stirring events of the night, bathed his wounds with rather 
trembling fingers. " I'll ride into Komgha to-morrow and 
have the whole lot arrested— especially that lying dog 
Nteya I'll go with the police myself, if only to see 
the old scoundrel handcuffed and hauled off to the 
tronk." 

" What on earth induced you to run your head into such 
a hornet s nest for the sake of a few sheep ? " said Eustace 
at last, thinking he ought to say something. 



46 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE, 



" Hang it, man ! " was the impatient retort. '* Do you 
suppose I was going to let these scoundrels have the laugh 
of me? I tell you I spoored the sheep slap into Nteya's 
kraal." 

" Well, they seem to have the laugh of you now, anyhow 
of uSf rather," said Eustace drily, as he turned away. 



CHAPTER IX. 



A STARTLING SURPRISE. 

Nature is rarely sympathetic. The day dawned, fair 
and lovely, upon the night of terror and brooding peril. 
A few golden rays, darting horizontally upon the green, 
undulating slopes of the pleasant Kaffrarian landscape — then 
the sun shot up from the eastern skyline. Before him the 
white mist, which had settled down upon the land a couple of 
hours before dawn, now rolled back in ragged folds, leaving 
a sheeny carpet of silver dew — a glittering sparkle of dia- 
mond drops upon tree and shrub. Bird voices were twit- 
tering into life, in many a gladsome and varying note. 
Little meer-kats, startled by the tread of the horse, sat upon 
their haunches to listen, ere plunging, with a frisk and a 
scamper, into the safety of their burrows. A tortoise, his 
neck distended and motionless, his bright eye dilated with 
alarm, noiselessly shrank into the armour-plated safety of 
his shell, just in time to avoid probable decapitation from 
the falling hoof which sent his protective shell rolling half 
a dozen yards down the slope. But he now riding abroad 
thus early, had little attention to give to any such trivial 
sights and sounds. His mind was fully occupied. 

No sleep had fallen to Eustace's tot that night. Late as 
it was when they retired to rest, fatiguing and exciting as 
the events of the day had been, there was no sleep for 
him. Carhayes, exasperated by the wrongs and rough 
treatment he had received at the hands of his barbarous 
neighbours, had withdrawn in a humour that was truly 
fearful, exacting unceasing attention from his wife and 
rudely repulsing his cousin's offer to take Eanswyth's place, 
in order that the latter might take some much-needed rest. 
A proceeding which lashed Eustace into a white heat of 
silent fury, and in his own mind it is to be feared he defined 
the other as a selfish, inconsiderate, and utterly irredeemable 
brute. Which, after all, is mere human nature. It is always 
the other fellow who is rather worse than a fiend. Were 



'TiVKE.V SNOW ANn FIRE. 



we in his shoes we should be something a little higher than 
an angel. That of course. ^ 

Unable to endure the feverish heat of restlessness that 
was upon him, with the first glimmer of dawn Eustace arose 
Une of his horses had been kept up in the stable and 
having saddled the animal he issued forth. But the horse 
was a badly broken, vicious brute, and like the human heart 
was deceitful and desperately wicked, and when to the 
inherent villainy of his corrupt nature was superadded the 

Zyt ^J'^^^^T^f ''"'^'"^ '^'^'^^"^^ ^ comfortable 
stable for the fresh, not to say raw, atmosphere of early 

dawn, he resolved to make himself as disagreeable as pos- 
sible. He began by trying all he knew to buck the saddle 
wiV w '^''"'^'^^^•y- He might, however, be more successful 
with the rider. So almost before the latter had deftlv 
swung himself into his seat, down again went the perverse 
brutes head, and up went his back. Plunging, Vearing, 
kicking, squealmg, the animal managed to waste five minutes 
and a great deal of superfluous energy, and to incur some 
roughish treatment into the bargain, for his rider was as 
firm in the saddle as a bullet in a cartridge, and moreover 
owned a stout crop and a pair of sharp spurs, and withal 
was little inclined to stand any nonsense that morning from 
man or beast. ^ 

But the tussle did Eustace good, in that it acted with 
bracing effect upon his nerves, and having reduced the 
refractory steed to order, he headed for the open vehU not 
much carmg where he went as long as he was movin? 
And now as the sun rose, flooding the air with a mellow 
warmth a great elation came upon him. He still seemed 
to feel the pressure of those Hps to his, the instinctive cling- 
ing to him in the hour of fear. He had yielded to the 
weird enchantment of the moment, when they two were 
alone in the hush of the soft, sensuous night-alone almost 
in the very world itself. His better judgment had failed 
him at the critical time-and for once his better judgment 
had been at fault all along-for once passion was truer 
than judgment. She had retin-ned his kiss. 

Then had come that horribly inopportune interruption. 
But was it inopportune? Thinking things over now he 
was inclined to decide that it was not. On the contrary, 
the ice must be broken gently at first, and this is just the 
result which that interruption had brought about. Again, 



A STARTLING SURPRISE. 



49 



the rough and bitter words which had followed upon it 
could only, to one of Eanswyth's temperament, throw out 
in more vivid contrast the nectar sweetness of that cup of 
which she had just tasted. He had not seen her since, but 
he soon would. He would play his cards with a master 
hand. By no bungling would he risk the game. 

It was characteristic of the man that he could thus 
reason — could thus .scheme and plot — that side by side 
with the strong whirl of his passion, he could calculate 
chances, map out a plan. And there was nothing sordid or 
gross in his thoughts of her. His love for Eanswyth was 
pure, even noble — elevating, perfect — but for the fact that 
she was bound by an indissoluble tie to another man. 

Ah, but — there lay the gulf ; there rose the great and in- 
vincible barrier. Yet, why invincible ? 

The serpent was abroad in Eden that morning. With the 
most sweet recollection of but a few hours back fresh in his 
heart, there rested within Eustace's mind a perfect glow of 
radiant peace. Many a word, many a tone, hardly under- 
stood at the time, came back to him now with startling 
clearness. For a year they had dwelt beneath the same 
roof, for nearly that period, for quite that period, as he was 
forced to own to himself, he had striven hard to conquer the 
hopeless, the unlawful love, which he plainly foresaw would 
sooner or later grow too strong for him. But now it had 
overwhelmed him, and-— she had returned it. The scales 
had fallen from his eyes at last — from both their eyes. 
What a very paradise was opening out its golden glories 
before them. Ah, but — the barrier between them — and 
that barrier the life of another ! 

Yet what is held upon more desperately frail tenure 
than a life? What is more easily snapped than the cord 
of a life ? It might have been done during the past night. 
By no more than a hair's breadth had Carhayes escaped. 
The savages might on the next occasion strike more true. 
Yes, assuredly, the serpent was abroad in that Eden now — 
his trail a trail of blood. There was something of the 
murderer in Eustace Milne at that moment. 

Mechanically still he rode on. He was skirting a high 
rounded spur. Rising from a bushy valley not many miles 
in front were several threads of blue smoke, and the faint 
sound of voices, with now and then the yelp of a dog, was 
borne upon the silent morning air. He had travelled some 



50 



'TWEEX SXOIV AND FIRE. 



distance and now not far in front lay the outlying kraals of 
Nteya's location. 

A set, ruthless look came over his fine face. Here were 
tools enough ready to his hand. Not a man among those 
clans of fierce and truculent barbarians but hated his cousin 
with a hatred begotten of years of friction. On the other 
hand he himself was on the best of terms with them and 
their rulers. A little finessing — a lavi.sh reward, and — well, 
so far he shrank from deliberate and cold-blooded murder! 
And as though to cast off temptation before it should be- 
come too strong for him, he wrenched round his horse with 
a sudden jerk and rode down into a wild and bushy kloof 
which ran round the spur of the hill. 

" Never mind I " he exclaimed half aloud. " Never mind! 
We shall have a big war on our hands directly. Hurrah 
for war, and its glorious chances !— Pincher, you fool, 
what the deuce is the matter with you ? " 

For the horse had suddenly stopped short. With his 
ears cocked forward he stood, snorting violently, trembling 
and backing. Then with a frantic plunge he endeavoured 
to turn and bolt, But his master's hand and his master's 
will were strong enough to defeat this effort. At the same 
time his master's eye became alive to the cause of alarm. 

Issuing from the shade of the mimosa trees, seeming to 
rise out of the tangle of long, coarse herbage, were a num- 
ber of red, sinuous forms. The ochre-sraeared bodies, the 
gleaming assegai blades, the brawny, muscular limbs still 
bedecked with the barbarous and fantastic adornments of 
the night's martial orgy, the savage and threatening aspect 
of the grim, scowling countenances looked formidable 
enough, not merely to scare the horse, but to strike dismay 
into the heart of the rider, remembering the critical state 
of the times. 

" Stop ! " cried one of the Kafirs peremptorily. " Come 
no farther, white man ! " 

With a rapid movement two of them advanced as if to 
seize his bridle. 

" Stop yourselves ! " cried Eustace decisively, covering- 
the pair with a revolver. 

So determined was his mien, and withal so cool and com- 
nianding, that the savages paused irresolute. A quick 
ejaculation rose from the whole party. There was a flash 
and a glitter. A score of assegais were poised ready for a 



A STARTLING SURPRISE. 



51 



fling. Assailants and assailed were barely a dozen yards 
apart. It was a critical moment for Eustace Milne. His 
life hung upon a hair. 

Suddenly every weapon was lowered — in obedience to a 
word spoken by a tall Kafir who at that moment emerged 
from the bush. Then Eustace knew the crisis was past. 
He, too, lowered his weapon. 

"What does this mean, Ncanduku? " he said, addressing 
the new arrival. " Why do your people make war upon me? 
We are not at war," 

"Alt I" ejaculated several of the Kafirs, bringing their 
hands to their faces as if to hide the sarcastic grin evoked 
by this remark. He addressed shrugged his shoulders. 

" Fear nothing, Ixeshane,"* he replied, with ahalf-amused 
smile. " No harm will be <lone. you. Fear nothing." 

The slight emphasis on the " you " did not escape 
Eustace's quick ear, coming as it did so close upon his 
recent train of thought. 

"Why should I fear?" he said. "I see before me 
Ncanduku, the brother of Nteya, my friend — both my 
friends, both chiefs of the House of Gaika. I see before 
me, I say, Ncanduku, my friend, whom I know. I see before 
me also a number of men, fully armed, whom I do not know." 

" Hau I " exclaimed the whole body of Kafirs, who, bend- 
ing forwards, had been eagerly taking in every word of this 
address. 

" These armed men," he continued, " have just threatened 
my life. Yet, I fear nothing. Look ! " 

He raised the revolver, which he now held by the barrel. 
In a twinkling lie threw open the breech and emptied the 
cartridges into his hand. Another emphatic murmur rose 
from the Kafirs at this strange move. 

" Look ! " he went on, holding out the empty weapon 
towards them in one hand, and the half dozen cartridges 
in the other. " You are more than twenty men — armed. 
I am but one man — unarmed. Do I fear anything? " 

Again a hum went round the party — this time of admira- 
tion—respect. Eustace had played a bold — a foolhardy 
stroke. But he knew his men. 

" JV/iau, Ixeshane!" exclaimed Ncanddku. "You are a 
bold man. It is good that I have seen you this morning. 
Now, if you are going home, nobody will interfere with you." 
* The Deliberate. 



52 



'TWEEN SNOIV AND FIRE. 



"I am in no hurry, Ncandiiku," replied Eustace who for 
purposes of his own, chose to ignore this hint " It is a 
long while since I have seen you, and many things have 

"^'^ ^"^ '^^'d a little 

Sp saying, he dismounted, and flinging his bridle over a 
bush, he walked at least a dozen yards from the horse and 
dehberately seated himself in the shade, thus cor^nleSv 
placing himself m the power of the savage . He wa^ ioined 
by Ncandiiku and two or three more'' The other Srs 
sank down into a squatting posture where they were 

Gaika?iirf' ^""'^ ''^"^'''^g his pouch to the 

Oaika chief Though I fear the contents won't go verv 
far among all our friends here." ^ ^ 

*Talk. 



CHAPTER X. 



A MUTUAL WARNING. 

_ It may not here be out of place to offer a word of explana- 
tion as to the extraordinarily cordial relations existing be- 
tween Eustace Milne and his barbarian neighbours 
student of nature all the world over, he had rejoiced in 'find- 
ing ready to his hand so promising a subject as this fine race 
of savages, dwelling inclose proximity to. and indeed in 
and among, the abodes of the white colonists, and instead 
of learning to look upon the Kafirs as so many more or less 
troublesome and indifferent farm servants, actual stock- 
lifters and potential foeinen, he had started by recognizing 
their many good qualities and resolving to make a complete 
study of the race and its characteristics. And this he had 
effected, with the thoroughness which marked everything 
he undertook. A quick linguist, he soon mastered the rather 
difticult, but melodious and expressive Xosa tongue, in 
which long and frequent conversations with its speakers had 
by this time rendered him nearly perfect ; a man of keen 
intellect, he could hold his own in argument with any of 
these people, who, on subjects within the scope of their ac- 
quaintance, are about the shrewdest debaters in the world. 
His cool deliberation of speech and soundness of judgment 
commanded their abundant respect, and the friendf)' and 
disinterested feeling which he invariablv evinced towards 
them being once understood and appreciated, a very genuine 
hkmg sprang up on both sides. 

Of course all this did not pass unnoticed by his white ac- 
quaintances and neighbours— who were wont to look upon 
him as an eccentricity in consequence, and to chaff him a 
good deal about his " blanket friends," or ask him when he 
expected to be in the Cabinet as Secretary for Native 
Affairs. A few of the more ill-natured would sneer occa- 
sionally, his cousin among the latter. But Eustace Milne 
could take chaff with perfect equanimity, and as for the 
approval or disapproval of anybody he regarded it not 
one whit. 



S3 



54 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Stay — of anybody ? Yes — of one. 

And that approval he had gained tc the full. Eanswyth, 
watching her cousin during the year that he had been living 
with them, had felt her regard and respect for him deepen 
more and more. Many a time had his judgment and tact 
availed to settle matters of serious difficulty and, of late, 
actual peril, brought about by the hot-headed imperiousness 
of her husband in his dealings with the natives. Living a 
year beneath the same roof with anybody in ordinary work- 
a-day intercourse affords the best possible opportunity of 
studying the character of that person. Eanswyth, we say, 
had so studied the character of her husband's cousin and 
had pronounced it well-nigh flawless. But of this more 
elsewhere. 

" Who are those people, Ncandiiku ? " said Eustace, 
after a few preliminary puffs in silence, " Except yourself 
and Sikuni here, they are all strangers to me. I do not 
seem to know one of their faces." 

The chief shrugged his shoulders, emitting a thick puff 
of smoke from his bearded lips. 

"They are strangers," he answered. "They are Ama- 
Gcal^ka, and are returning to their own country across the 
Kei. They have been visiting some of their friends at 
Nteya's kraal." 

" But why are they all so heavily armed ? We are not at 
war." 

" Whau, Ixeshane ! You kno?; there is trouble just now 
with the Amafengu [Fingoes]. These men might be 
molested on their way back to their own country. They 
are afraid, so they go armed." 

" Who are they afraid of ? Not the Amafengu. their dogs ? 
Why should they go armed and travel in such strength ? " 

The chief fixed his glance upon his interlocutor's face, 
and there was a merry twinkle in his eye as he turned away 
again. 

"A man is not afraid of one dog, Ixeshane, nor yet of 
two," he replied. " But if a hundred set upon him, he 
must kill them or be killed himself." 

Eustace uttered a murmur of assent. Then after a pause 
he said : 

"To travel in a strong party like that 'n these times is 
not wise. What if these Gcal^kas were to fall in with a 



A MUTUAL WARNING. 



55 



Police patrol — would there not surely be a fight? That 
might bring on a war. I am a peaceable man. Everybody 
is not. What if they had met a less peaceable man than 
myself, and threatened him as they did me ? There would 
have been a fight and the white man might have been 
killed — for what can one man do against twenty ? " 

" He need not have been kilted — only frightened," 
struck in the other Kafir, Sikuni. 

" Some men are easier killed than frightened," rejoined 
Eustace. " Last night some people from Nteya's kraal 
attacked my brother,* stole his gun, and tried to kill him. 
But they did not frighten him." 

In spite of the conventional exclamation of astonishment 
which arose from his hearers, Eustace was perfectly well 
aware that this was no news to them. 

" That is bad news," said Ncanddku, with well-feigned 
concern. " But it may not have been done by any of our 
people, Ixeshane. There may have been some Fingo dogs 
wandering about the land, who have done this thing in 
order that the English may blame us for it." 

It was now Eustace's turn to smile. 

" Does a dog wander to the mouth of a den of lions ? " 
he said, keenly enjoying the notion of turning the tables. 
" Will a few Fingoes attack a guest of Nteya's within the 
very light of the fires of the Gaika location ? " 

" Your brother, Umlilwane, is too hot-headed," answered 
the chief, forced to shift his ground. " Yet he is not a 
young man. Our young men, too, are hot-headed at times 
and escape from under the controlling eye of the chiefs. 
But Nteya will surely punish those who have done this 
thing." 

" Let your friends proceed on their way, Ncandiiku," 
said Eustace suddenly, and in a low tone^ " I would speak 
with you alone." 

The chief assented, and at a word from him the Gcal^kas 
rose to their feet and gathered up their weapons. With a 
respectful salute to the white man they filed off into the 
bush, and soon the faint rattle of assegai hafts and the 
deep bass hum of their voices faded into silence. 

" Now we are alone," began Eustace after a pause. 
"We are friends, Ncandiiku, and can talk freely. If there 

* The term " brother " is often colloquially used among Kafirs to des- 
ignate other degrees of relationship. 



56 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



is trouble between the Gcalekas and the Fingoes, surely 
Kreli is able to take care of his own interests. Why, then, 
should the Gaikas have lighted the war-fires, have danced 
the war-dance ? The quarrel is not theirs." 

" The wrongs of the Paramount Chief are the wrongs of 
the whole Xosa race," answered the Kafir. " See now 
We love not your brother, Umlilwane. Yet, tell him to col- 
lect his flocks and his herds and to leave, to depart into 
a quieter country, and that speedily ; for the land will soon 
be dead."* 

" And what if he refuses ? " 

"Then he, too, will soon be dead." 

For some minutes Eustace kept silence. The Kafir's 
remark had added fuel to the fire which was burning within 
his heart. It seemed a direct answer to lurid unspoken 
thoughts which had been surging through his mind at the 
time of his surprise by the at first hostile party. 

"Umlilwane is an obstinate man," he said at leno-th 
"What if he laughs at the warning ?" ' 

" When a man sits inside his house and laughs while his 
house is burning, what happens to him, Ixeshane ? " 

*' He stands a fair chance of being burnt too. But listen, 
Ncandiiku. You have no quarrel against the Inkosikazi.\ 
Surely not a man of the House of Gaika would harm her ! " 

The chief shook his head with a troubled expression. 

" Let her go, too ! " he said emphatically. " Let her go, 
too, and that as soon as possible. When the red wave of 
war is rolling over the land, there is no place where the 
delicate feet of white women may stand dry. We are friends 
Lxeshane. For your sake, and' for that of the Inkosikazi, 
tell Umhlwane to gather together his cattle and to go." 

" We are friends, indeed, Ncandiiku. But how long can 
we be so ? If war breaks out between our people how can 
I sit still ?_ I cannot. I must fight— must fight for my own 
race, and in defence of our property. How, then, can we 
remain friends ? " 

In war time every man must do hisdutj^" answered the 
Gaika. " He must obey the word of his chief and fight for 
his race and colour." 

"Truly spoken and well understood. And now a warn- 
ing for a warning. If I had the ears of your chiefs and 
* Native idiom for war 

t Lit.: Chieftainess. In this instance "lady." 



A MUTUAL WARNING. 



57 



amapakati'^ this is what I should say : Do not be drawn 
into this war. Let the Gcalekas fight out their own quarrel 
They stand upon wholly different ground. If they are 
vanquished— as, of course, they will be in the long run— 
the Government will show them mercy, will treat them as a 
conquered people. But you, and the other tribes within the 
colonial border, are British subjects. Queen Victoria is 
your chief, not Kreli, not Sandili, not Seyolo, not Ndimba— 
\to man of the House of Gaika or Hlambi, but the White 
Queen. If you make war upon the Colony the Government 
will treat you as criminals, not as a conquered people, but 
as rebels against the Queen, your chief. You will be shown 
no mercy. Your chiefs will very likely be hung and your 
fighting men will be sent to the convict prisons for many a 
long year. That when you are beaten. And how long can 
you carry on the war? Things are not as they were. The 
country is not as it was. Think of the number of soldiers 
that will be sent against you ; of the police ; of the settlers, 
who will turn out to a man— all armed with the best breech- 
loaders, mind. And what sort of weapons have you ? A 
few old muzzle loaders more dangerous to the shooter than 
to his mark. What can you do with these and your assegais 
against people armed with the best rifies in the world ? I 
am indeed your friend, Ncandiiku, and the friend of your 
race. Let my warning sink deep in your mind, and carry it 
to the chiefs. Let them be wise in time." 

" The words of Ixeshane are always the words of wis- 
dom," said the Kafir, rising in obedience to the other's ex- 
ample. "But the young men are turbulent. They will not 
listen to the counsels of their elders. The cloud grows 
darker every day. I see no light," he added, courteously 
holding the stirrup for Eustace to mount, " Go in peace, 
Ixeshane, and remember my warning." 

And gathering up his assegais the chief disappeared 
among the trees, following the direction taken by the larger 
party. * 

♦ Councillon. 



CHAPTER XI. 



" THE TAIL WAGS THE DOG." 

Eustace had plenty to occupy his thoughts during his 
homeward ride. The emphatic warning of the Gaika chief 
was not to be set aside lightly. That Ncandiiku knew 
more than he chose to say was evident. He had spoken 
out very plainly for one of his race, who dearly love veiled 
hints and beating around the bush. Still there was more 
behind. 

Especially did the chief's perturbation when Eanswyth 
was referred to strike him as ominous to the last degree. 
Even in war time there are few instances of Kafirs seri- 
ously maltreating white women, and Eanswyth was well 
liked by such of her dusky neighbours as she had come in 
contact with. Yet in the present case so thoroughly hated 
was her husband that it was conceivable they might even 
strike at him through her. 

Why had Carhayes not fallen in with the armed party 
instead of himself, thought Eustace bitterly. That would 
have cut the knot of the difficulty in a trice. They would 
not have spared him so readily. They were Gcal^kas, 
Hlangani's tribesmen. Hlaagani's wound would have been 
avenged, and Eanswyth would by this time be free. 

Very fair and peaceful was the aspect of the farm as the 
last rise brought it full into the horseman's view. The 
bleating of sheep, mellowed by distance, as the flocks 
streamed forth white upon the green of the veldt, and the 
lowing of cattle, floated upon the rich morning air — together 
with the sound of voices and laughter from the picturesque 
group of native huts where the farm servants dwelt. 
Doves cooed softly, flitting among the sprays of mimosa 
fringing the mealie lands ; and upon the surface of the 
dam there was a shimmer of silver light. All seemed 
peaceful — happy — prosperous ; yet over all brooded the 
red cloud of war. 

Eustace felt his pulses quicken and his heart stir as he 
strained his eyes upon the house, to catch maybe the flutter 

58 



" THE TAIL WAGS THE DOG." 



59 



of a light dress in the veranda. Many a morning had he 
thus returned from a ride without so much as a heartstir- 
ring. Yet now it was different. The ice had been broken" 
A new light had been let in— a sweet new light, glowing 
around his path like a ray of Paradise. They understood 
each other at last. 

Yet did they ? How would she receive him— how greet 
him after the disclosure of last night ? Would she have 
thought better of it .? For the first time in his life he felt 
his confidence fail him. 

" Hallo, Eustace ! Thought you had trekked ofj some- 
where for the day," growled Carhayes, meeting him in 
the doorway. "Been looking up some of your blanket 
friends ? " 

" Where are you off to yourself, Tom ?" was the reply 
For the other was got up in riding boots and breeches, as 
if for a journey. 

"To Komgha— I'm goingoverto lay an information against 
Nteya. I'll have the old schclm in the tronk by to-night " 

"Not much to be taken by that, is there? Just come 
this way a minute, will you ? I've heard something you may 
as well know." ' 

With a mutter and a growl Carhayes joined him outside 
In a few words Eustace conveyed to him Ncanddku's 
warning. It was received characteristically— with a shout 
of scornful laughter. 

" Gammon, my dear chap. I never funked a nigger yet 
and I never will. And, I say. You'd better take a ride 
round presently and look after the sheep. I've been 
obliged to put on Josdne's small boy in Goniwe's place 
and he may not be up to the mark. I daresay I'll be back 
before dark." 

" Well, the sheep will have to take their chance, Tom 
I m not going out of call of the homestead while Eanswvtli 
is left here alone." 

"Bosh !" returned Carhayes. " She don't mind. Has 
she not been left alone here scores of times ? However 
do as you like. I must be off." ' 

They had been walking towards the stable during this 
conversation. Carhayes led forth his horse, mounted, and 
rode away. Eustace put up his, and having cut up a couple 
of bundles of oat-hay— for they were short of hands— took 
his way to the house. 



6o 'TWEEN SNOIV AMD FIRE. 

He had warned his cousin aiid his warning had been 
scouted. He had struggled with a temptation not to warn 
him, but now it came to the same thing, and at any rate his 
own hands were clean. The journey to Komgha was long, 
and in these times for a man so hated as Tom Carhayes, 
might not be altogether safe, especially towards dusk. 
Well, iie had been warned. 

Eustace had purposely taken time over attending to his 
horse. Even his strong nerves needed a little getting in 
hand before he should meet Eanswyth that morning ; even 
his pulses beat quicker as he drew near the house. Most 
men would have been eager to get it over ; would have 
blundered it over. Not so this one. Not without reason 
had the Kafirs nicknamed him " Ixeshane " — the Deliberate. 

Eanswyth rose from the table as he entered. Breakfast 
was over, and Tom Carhayes, with characteristic impulsive- 
ness, had started off upon his journey with a rush, as we 
have seen. Thus once more these two were alone together, 
not amid the romantic witchery of the southern night, but 
in the full broad light of day. 

Well, and then ? Had they not similarly been together 
alone countless times during the past year ? Yes, but now 
it was different — widely different. The ice had been 
broken between them. 

Still, one would hardly have suspected it. Eanswyth 
was perfectly calm and composed. There was a tired look 
upon the sweet face, and dark'circles under the beautiful 
eyes as if their owner had slept but little. Otherwise both 
her tone and manner were free from any trace of confusion. 

"I have put your breakfast to the kitchen fire to keep 
warm, Eustace," she said. "Well, what adventures have 
you met with in the veldt this morning ? " 

" First of all, how good of you. Secondly — leaving my 
adventures in abeyance for the present — did you succeed in 
getting any rest ? " 

He was looking straight at her. There was a latent caress 
in his glance — in his tone. 

"Not much," she answered, leaving the room for a 
moment in order to fetch the hot dish above referred to. 

It was a trying sort of a night for us all, wasn't it ? " she 
resumed as she returned. And now Tom must needs go 
rushing off again on a fool's errand." 

" Never mind Tom. A little blood-letting seems good 



"THE TAIL WAGS THE DOG." 



6r 



for him rather than otlierwise,"' said Eusuce, with a dash 
of bitterness. About yourself. I dou t believe you have 
closed your eyes this night through. If you won't take 
care of yourself, other people must do so for you. Presently 
I afn going to sling the hammock under the trees and you 
shall have a right royal siesta." 

His hand had prisoned hers as she stood over hira arrang- 
ing the plates and dishes. A faint colour came into her face 
and she made a movement to withdraw it. Tiie attempt' 
however, was a feeble one. ' 

" I think we are a pair of very foolish people," she said, 
with a laugh whose sadness almost conveyed the idea of a 
sob. 

" Perhaps so," he rejoined, pressing the hand he held to 
his cheek a moment, ere releasing it. " What would life 
be worth without its foolishness?" 

For a few moments neither spoke. Eanswyth was busy- 
ing herselt arranging some of the things in the room 
adjusting an ornament here, dusting one there Eustace 
ate his breakfast in silence, tried to, rather, for it seemed to 
him at timefi as if he could not eat at all. The attempt 
seemed to choke him. His thoughts, his feelings, were in a 
whirl. Here were they two alone together, with the whole 
day before them, and yet there seemed to have arisen some- 
thing in the nature of a barrier between them. 

A barrier, however, which it would not be difficult to 
overthrow, his unerring judgment told him ; yet he fought 
hard with himself not to lose his self-control. He noted 
the refined grace of every movement as she busied herself 
about the room— the thoroughbred poise of the stately head 
the sheen of light upon the rich hair. All this ought to 
belong to him— did belong to him. Yet he fought hard 
with himself, for he read in that brave, beautiful face an 
appeal, mute but eloquent— an appeal to him to spare her 
wi /-^r^- "^'^^ startled hiin— startled them both, 

wirat If It was some neighbour who had ridden over to iiay 
them a visit, thought Eustace with dismay— some con- 
founded bore who would be likely to remain the best part of 
the day ? But it was only old Josane, the cattleherd. His 
master had told him to look in presently and ask for some 
tobacco, which he had been promised. 

"Fll go round to the storeroom and' get it for him," said 
. ti-answyth. " You go on with your breakfast, Eustace." 



62 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE, 



" No, I'll go. I've done anyhow. Besides, I want to 
speak to him." 

Followed by the old Kafir, Eustace unlocked the store- 
room — a dark, cool chamber forming part of an outbuilding. 
The carcase of a sheep, freshly killed that morning, dangled 
from a beam. Piles of reims, emitting a salt, rancid odour — 
kegs of sheep-dip, huge rolls of Boer tobacco, bundles of 
yoke-skeys, and a dozen other things requisite to the details 
of farm work were stowed around or disposed on shelves. 
On one side was a grindstone and a carpenter's bench. 
Eustace cut off a liberal length from one of the rolls of 
tobacco and gave it to the old Kafir. Then he filled his 
own pipe. 

"Josdne?" 

" Nkose ? " 

" You are no fool, Josdne. You have lived a good many 
years, and your head is nearly as snow-sprinkled as the 
summit of the Great AVinterberg in the autumn. What do 
you thing of last night's performance over yonder?" 

The old man's shrewd countenance melted into a slight 
smile and he shook his head. 

" The Gaikas are fools," he replied. " They have no 
quarrel with the English, yet they are clamouring for war. 
Their country is fertile and well watered, yet they want to 
throw it away with both hands. They are mad." 

" Will they fight, Josdne ? " 

" Au ! Who can say for certain," said the old man with 
an expressive shrug of the shoulders. " Yet, was ever such 
a thing seen ? The dog wags his tail. But in this case it is 
the tail that wags the dog." 

" How so, Josdne ? " 

" The chiefs of the Gaikas do not wish for war. The old 
men do not wish for it. But the young men— the boys — 
are eager for it. The women taunt them, they say ; tell 
them they have forgotten how to be warriors. So the boys 
and the women clamour for war, and the chiefs and the old 
men give way. Thus the tail wags the dog. Hau /" 

" And what about the Gcalekas ? " 

" The Gcalekas ? It is this way, Nkose. If you shut up 
two bulls alone in the same kraal, if you put two scorpions 
into a mealie stamp, how long will it be before they fight? 
So it is with the Gcalekas and the Fingoes. The land is 
not large enough for both. The Gcalekas are ready for war." 



" THE TAIL WAGS THE DOG." 



63 



" And Kreli ? " 

" The Great Chief is in one of his red moods," answered 
Josdne, in a different tone to that which he had employed 
wl-sn speaking of the Gaikas. «' He has a powerful witch- 
doctress. I know her. AVas I not ' smelt out ' by her ? 
Was I not ' eaten up ' * at her ' word ' ? The toad 1 The 
impostor ! The jackal cat ! The slimy fish ! I know 
her. Hd ! " 

The old man's eyes glared and his tone rose to one of 
fierce excitement at the recollection of his wrongs. Eustace, 
accustomed to study his fellow-men, took careful note of 
the circumstance. Strange things happened. It might 
serve him in good stead one day. 

The Gcalekas will fight," went on Josdne. " Perhaps 
they are fighting now. Perhaps the Baas will have some 
news to bring when he returns from Komgha. The tele- 
graph is quick, but the voice of the bird in the air is 
quicker," he added with a meaning smile, which convinced 
his listener that he knew a great deal more than he chose 
to say. 

" The fire stick is even now in the thatch," went on the 
Kafir, after a few more puffs at his pipe. " There is a her- 
ald from the Great Chief among the Gaika kraals " 

" Hlangani?" 

" Hlangani. The Gaikas are listening to his ' word,' and 
are lighting the war-fires. If he can obtain the ear of 
Sandili, his work is done. Whau, Ixeshane," he went on, 
slipping into the familiar name in his excitement. " You 
English are very weak people. You ought to arrest Matan- 
zima, and several others, and send a strong Resident to 
Sandili, who should always keep his ear." 

"We can't do that, Josane. There are wheels within 
wheels and a power behind the throne. Well, we shall see 
what happens," he went on, rising as a hint to the other to 
depart. 

He did not choose, for reasons of his own, to ask Josdne 
direct how imminent the danger might be. To do so 
would be ever so slightly to impair his own prestige. But 
in his own judgment he decided that the sooner they set 
their affairs in order against the coming storm the better. 
*Idiom for the total sequestration of a person's possessions. 



CHAPTER XII. 



• *' AH, LOVE, BUT A DAY ! . . ." 

Pondering over what the old Kafir had said, Eustace 
busied himself over two or three odd jobs. Then, returning 
to the storeroom, he filled up a large measure of mealies 
and went to the house. 

" I'm going down to the ostrich camp, Eanswyth. Do 
you feel inclined to stroll that far, or are you too tired?" 

"Yes and no. 1 think it will do me good." 

Flinging on a wide straw hat she joined him in the doorway. 
The ostrich camp was only a couple of hundred yards from 
the house, and at sight of them the great birds came sham- 
bling down to the fence, the truculent male having laid aside 
his aggressive ferocity for the occasion, as he condescended, 
with sullen and lordly air, to allow himself to be fed, though 
even then the quarrelsome disposition of the creature' 
would find vent every now and again in a savage hiss, 
accompanied by a sudden and treacherous kick aimed at his 
timid consort whenever the latter ventured within the very 
outskircs of the mealies thrown down. But no sooner had 
the last grain disappeared than the worst instincts of the 
aggressive bully were all to the fore again, and the huge 
biped, rearing himself up to his full height, his jetty coat 
and snowy wing feathers making a brave show, challenged 
his benefactors forthwith, rolling his fiery eyes as though 
longing to behold them in front of him with no protecting 
fence between. 

" Of all the ungracious, not to say ungrateful, scoundrels 
disfiguring God's earth, I believe a cock ostrich is the very 
worst," remarked Eustace. " He is, if possible, worse in 
that line than the British loafer, for even the latter won't 
always open his Billingsgate upon you until he has fairly 
assimilated the gin with which your ill-judged dole 'to save 
him from starving ' has warmed his gullet. But this brute 
would willingly kick you into smithereens, while you were 
in the very act of feeding him." 

Eanswyth laughed. 

fi4 



" AIT, LOVE, BUT A DAY ! . . . 



" l^hat Strange ideas you have got, Eustace. Now I 
wonder to how many people any such notion as that would 
have occurred." 

" Have I ? I am often told so, so I suppose I must have. 
But the grand majority of people never think themselves, 
consequently when they happen upon anybody who does 
they gaze upon him with unmitigated astonishment as a 
strange and startling product of some unknown state of 
existence." 

" Thank you," retorted Eanswyth with a laugh. " That's 
a little hard on me. As I made the remark, of course I am 
included in the grand majority which doesn't think." 

*' I have a very great miiul to treat that observation with 
the silence it deserves. It is a ridiculous observation. 
Isn't it ? " 

'* Perhaps it is," she acquiesced softly, in a tone that was 
half a sigh, not so much on account of the actual burden 
of the conversation, as an involuntary outburst of the dan- 
gerous, because too tender, undercurrent of her thoughts. 
And of those two walking there side by side in the radiant 
sunshine — outwardly so tranquilly, so peacefully, inwardly so 
blissfully — it was hard to say which was the most fully alive 
to the peril of the situation. Each was conscious of the 
mass of molten fires raging within the thin eggshell crust ; 
each was rigidly on guard ; the one with the femininft 
instinct of self-preservation superadded to the sense of 
rectitude of a strong character ; the other striving to rely 
upon the necessity of caution and patience enjoined by a 
far-seeing and habitually self-contained nature. So far, 
both forces were evenly matched — so far both could play 
into each other's hands, for mutual aid, mutual support 
against each other. Had there been aught of selfishness — 
of the mere unholy desire of possession — in this man's love, 
things would have been otherwise. His cool brain and 
consummate judgment would have given him immeasurably 
the advantage — in fact, the key of the whole situation. 
But it was not so. As we have said, that love was chival- 
rously pure— even noble — would have been rather elevating 
but for the circumstance that its indulgence meant the dis- 
counting of another man's life. 

Thus they walked, side by side, in the soft and sensuous 
sunshine. A shimmer of heat rose from the ground. Far 
away over the rolling plains a few cattle and horses, dotted 



66 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE, 



here and there grazing, constituted the only sign of life, 
and the range of wooded hills against the sky line 
loomed purple and raisty in the golden summer haze. If 
ever a land seemed to enjoy the blessings of peace as- 
suredly it was this fair land here spread out around them. 

They had reeiched another of the ostrich camps, wherein 
were.domiciled some eight or ten pairs of eighteen-month- 
old birds, which not having yet learned the extent of their 
power, were as tame and docile as the four-year-old male 
was savage and combative. Eustace had scattered the 
contents of his colander among them, and now the two 
were leaning over the gate, listlessly watching the birds 
feed. 

" Talking of people never thinking," continued Eustace, 
" I don't so much wonder at that. They haven't time, I sup- 
pose, and so lose the faculty. They have enough to do 
to steer ahead in their own narrow little groves. But 
what does astonish me is that if you state an obvious 
fact — so obvious as to amount to a platitude — it seems to 
burst upon them as a kind of wild surprise, as a kind of 
practical joke on wheels, ready to start away down-hill and 
drag them with it to utter crash unless they edge away from 
it as far as possible. You see them turn and stare at each 
other, and open an amazed and gaping mouth into which you 
might insert a pumpkin without them being in the least 
aware of it." 

*' As for instance ? " queried Eanswyth, with a smile, 
« Well — as for instance. I wonder what the effect 
would be upon an ordinary dozen of sane people were I 
suddenly to propound the perfectly obvious truism that life 
is full of surprises. I don't wonder, at least, for I ought to 
know by this time. They would start by scouting the idea j 
ten to one they would deny the premise, and retort that life 
was just what we chose to make it ; which is a fallacy, in 
that it assumes that any one atom in the human scheme is 
absolutely independent — firstly, of the rest of the crowd ; 
secondly, of circumstances — in fact, is competent to boss 
the former and direct the latter. Which, in the words of 
the immortal Euclid, is absurd." 

" Yet if any man is thus competent, it is yourself, Eus- 
tace." 

" No," he said, shaking his head meditatively. '* You 
are mistaken. I am certainly not independent of the action 



"AH, LOVE, BUT A DAYl . . . 



67 



of anyone who may elect to do me a good or an ill turn. 
He, she, or it, has me at a disadvantage all round, for I 
possess the gift of foresight in a degree so limited as to be 
practically nil. As for circumstances — so far from pretend- 
ing to direct them I am the mere creature of them. So are 
we all." 

" What has started you upon this train of thought ?" she 
asked suddenly. 

" Several things. But I'll give you an instance of what 
I was saying just now. This morning I was surprised and 
surrounded by a gang of Kafirs,'all armed to the teeth. 
Nearly all of them were on the very verge of shying their 
assegais bang through me, and if Ncandiiku— you'know him 
— Nteya's brother— hadn't appeared on the scene just in 
the very nick of time, I should have been a dead man. As 
it was, we sat down, had an tndaba and a friendly smoke, 
and parted on the best of terms. Now, wasn't I helplessl)', 
abjectly, the creature of circumstances— first in being mo- 
lested at all — second in Ncanddku's lucky arrival ?" 

"Eustace! And you never told me this ! " 

"I told Tom— just as he was starting— and he laughed. 
He didn't seem to think much of it. To tell the truth, 
neither did I. Why— what's the matter, Eanswyth ? " 

Her face was deathly white. Her eyes, wide open, were 
dilated with horror ; then they filled with tears. The next 
moment she was sobbing wildly — locked in his close era- 
brace. 

" Eanswyth, darling— »y darling. What is it ? Do not 
give way so ! There is nothing to be alarmed about now— 
nothing." 

His tones had sunk to a murmur of thrilling tenderness. 
He was showering kisses upon her lips, her brow, her eyes 
— upon stray tresses of soft hair which escaped beneath her 
hat. What had become of their attitude of guarded self- 
control now ? Broken down, swept away at one stroke as 
the swollen mountain stream sweeps away the frail barri- 
cade of timber and stones which thought to dam its course 
— broken down before the passionate outburst of a strong 
riature awakened to the knowledge of itself— startled into 
life by the magic touch, by the full force and fury of a con- 
sciousness of real love. 

" You are right," she said at last. "We must go away 
from here, I cannot bear that you should be exposed to 



68 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



such frightful peril. O Eustace ! Why did we ever 
meet ! " 

Why, indeed ! he thought." And the fierce, wild thrill of 
exultation whicli ran through him :it the consciousness that 
her love was his — that for good or for ill she belonged to 
him — belonged to him absolutely — was dashed by the 
thought : How was it going to end ? His clear-sighted, 
disciplined nature could not altogether get rid of that con- 
sideration. But clear-sighted, disciplined as it was, he 
could not forego that which constituted the whole joy and 
sweetness of living. " Sufficient for the day " must be his 
motto. Let the morrow take care of itself. 

" Why did we ever meet ? " he echoed. " Ah, does not 
that precisely exemplify what I was saying just now Life 
is full of surprises. Surprise No. i, when 1 first found you 
here at all. No. 2, when I awoke to the fact that you were 
stealing away my very self. And I soon did awake to that 
consciousness." 

" You did ? " 

" I did. And I have been battling hard against it — against 
myself — against you — and your insidiously enthralling in- 
fluence ever since." 

His tone had become indescribably sweet and winning. 
If the power of the man invariably made itself felt by all 
with whom he was brought into contact in the affairs of 
everyday life, how much more was it manifested now as he 
poured the revelation of his long pent-up love — the love of 
a strong, self-contained nature which had brfikeu bounds at 
last — into the ears of this woman whom he had subjugated 
— yes, subjugated, utterly, completely. 

And what of her ? 

It was as though all heaven had opened before her eyes. 
She stood there tightly clasped in that embrace, drinking 
in the entrancing tenderness of those tones— hungrily de- 
vouring the straight glance of those magnetic eyes, glowing 
into hers. She had yielded — utterly, completely, for she 
was not one to do things by halves. Ah, the rapture of it ! 

15ut every medal has its obverse side. Like the stab of a 
sword it came home to Kanswyth. This wonderful, en- 
thralling, beautiful love which had thrown a mystic glamour 
as of a radiant Paradise upon her life, had come just a trifle 
too late. 

**0 Eustace " she cried, tearing herself away from 



"AH, LOVE, BUT A DA V! . . ." 5g 

him, and yet keeping his hands clenched tightly in hers as 
though she would hold him at arm's length but could not. 
" O Eustace ! my darling ! How is it going to end How?" 

The very thought which had passed un.spoken through his 
own mind. 

" Dearest, think only of the present. For the future — 
who knows ! Did we not agree just now — life is full of 
surprises ? " 

" Au ! " 

Both started. Eanswyth could not repress a little scream, 
while even Eustace realised that he was taken at a disad- 
vantage, as he turned to confront the owner of the deep 
bass voice which had fired off the above ejaculation. 

It proceeded from a tall, athletic Kafir, who, barely ten 
yards off, stood calmly surveying the pair. His grim and 
massive countenance was wreathed into an amused smile. 
His nearly naked body was anointed with the usual red ochre, 
and round the upper part of his left arm he wore a splendid 
ivory ring. He carried a heavy knob-kerrie and several 
assegais, one of which he was twisting about in easy, listless 
fashion in his right hand. 

fV At sight of this extremely unwelcome, not to say formidable, 
apparition, Eustace'i hand instinctively and with a quick 
movement sought the back of his hip — a movement which 
a Western man would thoroughly have understood. But 
he withdrew it — einpty. For his eye, familiar with every 
change of the native countenance, noted that the expression 
of this man's face was good humoured rather than aggres- 
sive. And withal it seemed partly familiiir to him. 

"W'ho are you — and what do you want ?"he said shortly. 
Then as his glance fell upon a bandage wrapped round the 
barbarian's slioulder : Ah. I know you — Hlangani." 

" Keep your ' little gun ' in your pocket, Txeshane," said 
the Kafir, speaking in a tone of good humoured banter. 
" I am not the man to be shot at twice. Besides, I am not 
your enemy. If I were, I could have killed you many times 
over already, before you saw me ; could have killed you 
both, you and the Iiikosikazi." 

This was self-evident. Eustace, recognising it, fett rather 
small. He to be taken thus at a disadvantage, he, who had 
constituted himself Eanswyth's special protector against 



70 



TiVEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



this very man ! Yes. He felt decidedly small, but he was 
not going to show it. 

"You speak the truth, Hlangani," he answered calmly. 
" You are not my enemy. No man of the race of Xosa is. 
But why do you come here ? There is bad blood between 
you and the owner of this place, Surely the land is wide 
enough for both. Why should your pathways cross ? " 

" Ha ! You say truly, Ixeshane. There is blood between 
me and the man of whom you speak. Blood — the blood of 
a chief of the House of Gcaleka. Ha ! " 

The eyes of the savage glared, and his countenance under- 
went a transformation almost magical in its suddenness. 
The smiling, good humoured expression gave way to one of 
deadly hate, of a ruthless ferocity that was almost appalling 
to contemplate. So effective was it upon Eustace that care- 
lessly, and as if by accident, he interposed his body between 
Eanswith and the speaker, and though he made no move- 
ment, his every sense was on the alert. He was ready to 
draw his revolver with lightning-like rapidity at the first 
aggressive indication. But no such indication was mani- 
fested. 

" No. You have no enemies among our people — neither 
you nor the Inkostkazi" — went on Hlangani as his counten- 
ance resumed its normal calm. " You have always been 
friends to us. Why d^VQ you not living here together as our 
friends and neighbours — you two, without the poison of our 
deadly enemy to cause ill-blood between us and you — you 
alone together? I would speak with you apart, Ixes- 
hane." 

Now, Eanswyth, though living side by side with the na- 
tives, was, like most colonial people, but poorly versed in 
the Xosa tongue. She knew a smattering of it, just sufficient 
for kitchen purposes, and that was all; consequently, but for 
a word here and there, the above dialogue was unintelligi- 
ble to her. But it was otherwise with her companion. His 
familiarity with the language was all but complete, and not 
only with the language, but with all its tricks. He knew 
that the other was " talking dark," and his quick perception 
readily grasped the meaning which was intended to be con- 
veyed. With the lurid thoughts indulged in that morning 
as regarded his cousin still fresh in his mind, it could 
hardly have been otherwise. 

He hated the man : he loved the man's wife. " How is it 



"AH, LOVE. BUT A DAY! . . ." 71 

going to end?" had been his unuttered cry just now. 
" How is it going to end ! " she had re-echoed. Well, here 
was a short and easy solution ready to hand. A flush of 
blood surged to his face, and his heart beat fiercely under 
the terrible temptation thus thrown in his way. Yet, so 
fleeting was it as scarcely to constitute a temptation at all. 
Now that it was put nakedly to him he could not do this 
thing. He could not consent to a murder— a cold-blooded, 
treacherous murder. 

" I cannot talk with you apart, Hlangani," he answered. 
" I cannot leave the Inkostkazi standing here alone even for 
a few minutes." 

The piercing glance of the shrewd savage had been scrutin- 
izing his face— had been reading it like a book. Upon him 
the terrible struggle within had not been lost. 

" Consider, Ixeshane," he pursued. " What is the gift of 
a few dozen cows, of /zfw hundred cows, when compared with 
the happiness of a man's lifetime ? Notiiing. Is it to bs ? 
Say the word. Is it to be ? " 

The barbarian's fiery eyes were fixed upon his with deep 
and terrible meaning. To Eustace it seemed as if the 
blasting glare of the Arch fiend himself shone forth from 
their cruel depths. 

" It is not to be. The ' word ' is No ! Unmistakably and 
distinctly No. You understand, Hlangani ?" 

"Au/ As you will, Ixeshane," replied the Kafir, with an 
expressive shrug of his shoulders. "See. You wear a 
'charm,' " referring to a curious coin which Eustace wore 
hanging from his watchchain. " If you change your mind 
send over the ' charm ' to me at Nteya's kraal this night — 
it shall be returned. But after to-night it may be too late. 
Farewell." 

And flinging his blanket over his shoulder the savage 
turned and strode away into the ve/dt— Eustace purposely 
omitting to offer him a little tobacco, lest this ordinary token 
of good will should be construed into a sort of earnest of the 
dark and terrible bargain which Hlangani had proposed to 
him— by mere hints it is true-^but still had none the less 
surely proposed. 



CHAPTER XIIT. ( 

I 

I 

"... AND THE WORLD IS CHANGED." 

Thev Stood for some moments watching the receding 
figure of the Kafir in silence, Eanswyth was the first to 
break it. 

What have you been talking about all this time, 
Eustace ? Is it any new danger that theatens us? " 

" N-PO. Rather the reverse if anything," and his features 
cleared up as if to bear out the truth of his words. " I 
don't see, though, why you shouldn't know it. That'.s the 
man we fell foul of in the vddt yesterday- — you remember 
the affair of the white dog ? " 

"Oh ! " and Eanswyth turned verj' pale. 

" Now don't be alarmed, dearest. I believe he only 
loafed round here to try and collect some compensation." 

" Is that really all, Eustace ? " she went on anxiously. 
You seemed very much disturbed, dear. I don't think I 
ever saw you look so thoroughly disturbed." 

There was no perturbation left in his glance now. He 
took her face lovingly between his hands and kissed it again 
and again. 

" Did you not, my sweet ? Well, perhaps there has never 
existed such ground for it. Perhaps I have never met with so 
inopportune an interruption. But now, cheer up. We must 
make the most of this day, for a sort of instinct tells me that 
it is the last we shall have to ourselves, at any rate for some 
time to come. And now what shall we do with ourselves ? 
Shall we go back to the house or sit here a little while and 
talk ? " 

Eanswyth was in favour of the latter plan. And, seated 
there in the shade of a great acacia, the rich summer morn- 
ing sped by in a golden dream. The fair panorama of dis- 
tant hills and wooded kloofs ; the radiant sunlight upon the 
wide sweep of mimosa-dotted plains, shimmering into many 
a fantastic mirage in the glowing heat; the call of bird 
voices in the adjacent brake, and the continuous chirrup of 
crickets ; the full, warm glow of the sensuous air, rich, 

T3 



I "... AND THE WORLD IS CHANGED." 73 

jpermeating, life-giving ; here indeed was a very Eden. 
TJhus the golden morning sped swiftly by. 

\ But how was it all to end ? That was the black drop 
clouding the sparkling cup— that was the trail of the ser- 
pent across that sunny Eden. And yet not, for it may be 
that this very rift but served only to enhance the intoxicat- 
ing, thrilling delights of the present— that this idyl of hap- 
piness, unlawful alike in the sight of God or man, was a 
hundredfold sweetened by the sad vein of undercurrent 
running through it — even the consciousness that it was not 
to last. For do we not, in the weak contrariety of our 
mortal natures, value a thing in exact proportion to the 
precariousness of our tenure ! 

Come good, come ill, never would either of them forget 
that day : short, golden, idyllic. 

" Guess how long we have been sitting here ! " said 
Eanswyth at last, with a rapid glance at her watch. " No— 
don't look," she added hurriedly, "I want you lo guess" 

" About half an hour, it seems. But I suppose it must 
be more than that." 

" Exactly two hours and ten minutes." 
" Two hours and ten minutes of our last peaceful day 
together— gone. Of our first and our last day together." 

Why do you say our last, dear?" she murmured, 
toying with his hair. His head lay on her lap, his blue 
eyes gazing up into her large grey ones. 

« Because, as I told you, I have a strong inkling that 
way— at any rate, for some time to come. It is wholly 
lamentable, but, I'm afraid, inevitable." 

She bent her head— her beautiful stately head— drooped 
her lips to his and kissed them passionately. 

" Eustace, Eustace, my darling— my very life ! Why do 
I love you like this ! " 

" Because you can't help it, my sweet one ! " he answered, 
returning her kisses with an ardour equalling her own. 

" Why'did I give way so soon ? Why did I give way at 
all ? As you say, because I couldn't help it — because— in 
short, because it was you. You drew me out of myself — 
you forced me to love you, forced me to. Ah-h I and how 
I love you ! " 

The quiver in her tones would not be entirely suppressed. 
Even he had hardly suspected the full force of passion 
latent within this woman, only awaiting the magic touch to 



74 'TJVEEX .'^A^OIV AKD FIRE. j 

blaze forth into bright flame. And liis had been the toucA 
which had enkindled it. i 

" You have brought more than a Paradise into my life," 
he replied, his glance holding hers as he looked up into her 
radiant eyes. " Tell me, did you never suspect, all these 
months, that I only h've<^ when in the halo-influence of your 
presence ? " ^ 

""I knew it." I 

" You knew it ? " 

" Of course 1 did," she answered with a joyous laugh, 
taking his face between her hands and kissing it again. 
" I should have been no woman if I had not. But, I have 
kept my secret better than you. Yes, my secret. 1 have 
been battling against your influence far harder than you 
have against mine, and you have conquered." He started, 
and a look of something like dismay came into his face. 

" If that is so, you witching enchantress, why did you not 
lift me out of my torment long ago," he said. "But the 
worst is this. Just think what opportunities we have 
missed, what a long time we have wasted which might have 
been — Heaven." 

"Yet, even then, it may be better as things have turned 
out. My love — my star — I could die with happiness at 
this moment. But," and then to the quiver of joy in her 
voice succeeded an intonation of sadness, "but — 1 suppose 
this world does not contain a more wicked woman than my- 
self. Tell me, Eustace," she went on, checking whatever 
remark he might have been about to make, "tell me what 
you think. Shall we not one day be called upon to suffer 
in tears and bitterness for this entrancingly happy flood of 
sunshine upon our lives now ? " 

" That is an odtl question, and a thoroughly character- 
istic one," he replied slowly. " Unfortunately all the 
events of life, as well as the laws of Nature, go to bear 
cut the opinions of the theologians. Everything must be 
paid for, and from this rule there is no escape. Every- 
thing,therefore, resolves itself into a meie question of price — 
e.g., Is the debt nicurred worth the huge compound interest 
likely to be exacted upon it in the far or near future ? Now 
apply this to the present case. Do you follow me ? " 

"Perfectly. If our love is wrong— w'cked — we shall be 
called upon to suffer for it sooner or later ?" 

*• That is precisely my meaning. 1 will go further. The 



"... /IJVB THE WORLD IS CHANGED:' 75 

term 'poetic justice' is, I firmly believe, more than a mere 
idiom. If we are doing wrong through love for each other 
we shall have to expiate it at some future time. We shall 
be made to suffer through each other. Now, Eanswyth, 
what do you say to that ? " 

" I say, amen. I say that the future can take care of 
itself, that I defy it — no — wait! — not that. But I say that 
if this delirious, entrancing happiness is wrong, I would 
rather brave torments a thousandfold, than yield up one 
iota of it," she answered, her eyes beaming into his, and 
with a sort of proud, defiant ring in her voice, as if throwing 
down the gage to all power, human or divine, to come 
between them. 

" I say the same — my life I " was his reply. 

Thus the bargain was sealed — ratified. Thus was the 
glove hurled down for Fate to take up, if it would. The 
time was coming when she — when both — would remember 
those defiant, those deliberate words. 

Not to-day, however, should any forebodings of the 
Future be suffered to cloud the Present. They fled, all too 
quickly, those short, golden hours. They melted one by 
one, merged into the dim glories of the past. Would the 
time come when those blissful hours should be conjured forth 
by the strong jfearnings of a breaking heart, conjured forth 
to be lived through again and again, in the day of black 
and hopeless despair, when to the radiant enchantment of the 
Present should have succeeded the woe of a never-ending 
and rayless night ? 

But the day was with them now — idyllic, blissful — never to 
be forgotten as long as they two should live. Alas, that it fled ! 

Tom Carhayes returned that evening in high good 
humour. He was accompanied by another man, a neighbour- 
ing settler of the name of Hoste, a pleasant, cheery fellow, 
who was a frequent visitor at Anta's Kloof. 

"Well, Mrs. Carhayes," cried the latter, flinging his right 
leg over his horse's neck and sliding to the ground side- 
saddle fashion, " your husband has been pretty well sell- 
ing up the establishment to-day. What do you think of 
that? Hallo, Milne. How 'do ? " 

" I've made a good shot this time," assented Carhayes, 
" I've sold off nearly three thousand of the sheep to Reid, 
the contractor, at a pound a head all round. What do you 



76 



'TWEE.V SNOW AiVD FFRE. 



th,v u'",' "^"ow best,'* said Eustarp «b . i. 

this wholesale clearance, Tom ? - ^'^"ace. But wpy 

''Why? AVhy, man, haven't you heard ? r 

he hasn't. War ! That's why. AVar bv ' t ''"''^ 

It's begun. Our fellows are over the k2 ^'"^^ ' 

•n^T the niggers like two o'clock '' P^PP^'"' 

the'mo^e li'Kl^^fj'e'o^^he^t'sT^^ ^« 
report came mto Ko^L^ t/C'^ 

fight, and the Police Sbeeriic'ki<,^'\ '^^'^^ ^ 

have been moved across t^e Jiver '' ''^ ''^^ 

Kafir's hide^ By'the fonHl > '■''^ ^^"^^^ ^" 

forg^t'mv er'r'and"' T^e'wiTe't Mrs. Carhayes. I mustn't 
Komgha, and ninirnl.H '^'^ P"^''^^ "P ^ cottage in 

I^cky in ge t for ''^"'^ j'^'" her. Shf wL 

village isful ^"'Tl'eS^aTn '^"'^ the 
it is, and a lot o^f fellow a re iiT^en^^^r '^^'^ ^^"'^^^ 
i^^ke a big laager of the place" ' ^'^'^ "''^ ^^"^^ to 

tha^r-' S sai'r'^' ■ things as bad as al, 

round here is trekkinV n 7 1 ^'\^hayes ? Everyone 
George Payne in Ko fha to dlt 7'^^^^'- ^ '"^t 

out from Fountains Gnn Lf . I had cleared 

scare like he does '' '^'''' ^ "° f^^'^^v laughs at the 

be;;s^;^ ;^ y?s:'tS^r:s^^:t'' - ^--^ 

I can't go with you becaus/L f^ to-morrow, 
delivery of the stock fZT ■ u to take 

don't mind." ^"'^^"^^ ^'ght drive you over, if he 

aitL"ugl"notlln;1 ptseUeV'"' 7 ^"t 
both were think"^^ d t '17^'" Eanswyth and himself. 

came back he words ^Tf thaT mn ^'^^ "''"^^ ^^^h 

////^ corner And it would be -^"^ 
They sat down to supper. Tom Carhayas was in tre- 



. . . AND rifE IVORf.D IS C/r.l NOED." 77 

nlendous spirits that evening. He breathe.I fl.r,..,^ • 
a,ld slaughter again.st the wh^ole of the Xosa ch ucf 

hng gieefu ly over the old scores he was goinrtJ nav ' ff 
upon It m the persons of its fighting men InVcf 
as dehghted over the certainty^of an"^ o'ubreak a if he hdd 
-"tracts for the supply of rii tlp's and 

at the end of he war It wa?. firJ .^"^"^ ^"."^ 
doing that deil w?fh' v> 7 a first-class stroke of luck 
uuujg mar oeal with Reid, wasn't it, Eustace? We <;h;ill 
have our hands entirely free for whatever fun turns un'' 

Eustace agreed. He had reasons of his owr 7or wantin^r 
to keep h.s hands free during the next few mouths-po si^ 

t'ifned^by^^bTs couLr" ^ ^'^'^^^"^ "-"^ ^^^^ 
'' We can move the rest of the stock to SwaanenoPl^ 

to Took lZ\7t ■ ^^"^'^>^ oXToo7la 

to looic after it for a consideration. Then for some r^ll 
sport ! Eustace, pass the grog to Hoste'" '"^^ 

his g^a.ss.^""'' ^"'^ ^"^"^ • " the latter, filling 

"Sv.^.''' 'n^^f 1'!^^^' ' ^"'y too stony." 

\ou re a jolly lucky fellow to have a Somerset Fa^f 

Well we II lift a lot from old Kreli to make up for it " 
said Carhayes. " By the way, Eu.stace. Talk I'g Krlt- 
he s^ been summoned to meet the Go vernof anci won't 

of "h^'^Jather^'Hirzr'h -^ '^'''^^^ ^^^'^ the upshot 

ernor .>" ' summoned to meet the Gov- 

r^lS!": you're always harping on that old string" said 
Carhayes impatiently - Hang it all-as if a lo of red 
b anket niggers are to be treated like civilised beings ' T.^^ 

nn;rin;.drto.''^ '^''^ - ^^^y ' - tii; 

" That's all very pretty, Tom. But the ' making ' hasn't 



78 'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. ^ 

begun yet. By the time it's ended, we shall have a longish 
bill to pay — and a good many vacant chairs at various 
household tables. Fair play is fair play — even between our 
exalted selves and ' a lot of red-blanket niggers ' " 

" Mil ne is right, Carhayes," struck in Hoste. " Milne is 
right so far. Kafirs have got long memories, and I, for 
one, don't blame old Kreli for snapping his fingers at the 
Governor. But I don't agree with him that we haven't 
treated him fairly on the whole. Hang it, what have they 
got to complain of ? " 

'* I don't say they have anything in that line," said Eus- 
tace. " My remark about treating them fairly was only 
in answer to what Tom suggested. Still, I think it a mis- 
take to have located the Fingoes and Gcalekas next door 
to each other, with a mere artificial boundary between. It 
was safe to produce a shindy sooner or later." 

Thus the ball of conversation rolled on. Carhayes, ex- 
cited over the prospect of hostilities, took a glass or two of 
grog more than was good for him, and waxed extremely ar- 
gumentative as they adjourned to the stoep for an al fresco 
smoke. So he and his guest began, continued, and ended 
the campaign according to a great diversity of plans, each 
highly satisfactory to its originators and proportionately 
disastrous to the dark-skinned enemy. 

In this conversation Eanswyth did not join. The sweet 
and soothing influences of the day just passed filled her 
mind— and all this noisy talk jarred upon her. To her also 
the prospect of the coming campaign was a welcome one. 
After the events of the last twenty-four hours to go on 
living as heretofore would be a terrible strain. Her newly 
awakened love for the one man was so overwhelming as to 
engender in her a proportionate feeling of aversion towards 
the other. It was a fearful position. The temporary separa- 
tion involved by the campaign would be more than welcome. 
But separation from the one meant separation from the 
other. That was not welcome. 

And that other — what if he were to fall? He was so 
fearless — so foolhardy and confident. What if he under- 
took some insane mission and was treacherously murdered ? 
— O Heaven— what would life be without him now ? And 
a rush of tears brimmed to her eyes at the mere thought. 

Eustace, who had remained behind for a moment, to light 
his pipe, looked up and caught her glance. 



" . . . AND THE WORLD IS CHANGED." 79 



« I suppose I had better arrange to drive you over to 
Komgha to-morrow ? " he said, aloud and in an ordinary 
voice. Outside the other two were talking and arguing at 
a great rate. 

" Yes, I would not forego that for anything," she whis- 
pered. " But — leave me now, or I shall break down. 
Quick ! I wish it." 

One glance, straight into her eyes, and he obeyed. But 
that glance had said enough — had said more than many 
words could have done, 

" By the way, Tom," said Eustace, joining the pair of 
wranglers outside. What about Nteya ? You were going 
to have him run in, you know." 

" So ! Well, you see, it's this way : I got on that deal with 
Reid, first thing, and that drove the other out of my head. 
I had a job to find Reid, in the first place, but when you 
hear of a man willing to give a lumping big price for what 
you want to sell, that man's worth some hunting for, I can 
tell you. So I let Nteya slide — until we reach the Gaika 
location. Then I'll take it out of him, and a good many 
more of them too." 

Next morning, shortly after sunrise, the contractor arrived 
to take delivery of the stock. So he and Carhayes were 
extremely busy, the latter too much so to be able to afford 
more than an off-hand and hurried farewell to his wife. 

But the same held not good of his cousin and partner. 
Indeed one would think that Eustace had no concern what- 
ever in the sale for all the interest he took in it. Far more 
concerned was he to ensure that Eanswj'th had every con- 
ceivable thing that might conduce to her comfort and con- 
venience during her journeying to and sojourn in the 
settlement, than to satisfy himself that Contractor Reid, a 
canny Scot and a knowing file at a deal, should be allowed 
no loop-hole for climbing down from or getting behind his 
bargain. 

" I say, Milne," cried Hoste, while the horses were being 
inspanned. " It's rather slow work riding by one's self. 
Let's span in my horse as a leader, and drive unicorn. 
There's room for my saddle if we tie it on behind^ — and I 
can get in the cart with you. More sociable like. See } " 

But Eustace didn't see, or rather didn't want to see. This 
was clearly a case of " two's company, three's a crowd." 



^° 'TWEEN SNOW AND I^IRE. 

Equally clearly was it a case wherein the third might be ex- 
cused for omitting to apply the maxim. 

'■ There's a good ish weight in the trap already " he re- 
plied dubiously. But Eanswyth struck in: 

" We can make room for you, Mr. Hostr-. Certainly 
And if we have the additional pull of your liorse it wil" 
neutralize the additional weight." 

Eustace said nothing. If Eanswyth's mood had under- 
gone something of a change since last mght, that was only 
natural, he allowed. The arrangement was not to his lik- 
ing. But then, of most arrangements in this tiresome world 
the same held good. With which reflection, being a philoso- 
pher, he consoled himself. 

There was not much sign of the disturbed state of the 
country during the first part of the drive. But later, as they 
drew nearer the settlement, an abandoned homestead- 
standing silent and deserted, its kraals empty and the place 
devoid of life, or a trek of sheep and cattle raising a cloud 
of dust in the distance, together with a waggon or two loaded 
with the families and household goods of those, like them- 
selves, hastening from their more or less isolated positions 
to seek safety \\\ numbers, spoke eloquently and with mean- 
ing. Now and again a small group of Kafirs would pass 
them on the road, and although unarmed, save for their or- 
dinary kerries, there seemed a world of grim meaning in 
each dark face, a menace in the bold stare which did duty 
for the ordinarily civil, good humoured greeting, as if the 
savages knew that their time was coming now. 

It was a splendid day, sunny and radiant. But there was 
an oppressiveness in the atmosphere which portended a 
change, and ever and anon came a low boom of thunder. 
An inky cloud was rising behind the Kabousie Heights 
spreading wider and wider over the plains of Kafirland. A 
hind haze subdued the sunshine, as the rumble of the ap- 
proaching storm drew nearer and nearer, and the blue 
electric flashes played around the misty hilltops where the 
ill-omened war-Fires had gleamed two nights before. Even 
so, in like fashion, the brooding cloud of war swept down 
upon the land, darker and darker. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



A CURTAIN SECRET. 

The settlement of Komgha — called after an infinitesimal 
stream of that name— was, like most frontier townships, an 
utterly insignificant place." It consisted of a few straggling 
blocks of houses plumped down apparently without rhyme 
or reason in the middle of the veldt, which here was open 
and undulating. It boasted a few stores and canteens, a 
couple of institutions termed by courtesy " hotels," an ex- 
ceedingly ugly church, and a well-kept cricket ground. 
To the eastward rose the Kei Hills, the only picturesque 
element about the place, prominent among these the fiat, 
table-topped summit of Moordenaar's Kop,* a tragical spot 
so named on account of the surprise and massacre of a 
party of officers who had incautiously ventured up there in 
small force during one of the previous wars. The village 
was virtually the headquarters of the Frontier Armed and 
Mounted Police, the substantial square barracks, which 
harboured the artillery troop of that useful force, crowning 
the hill nearly a mile away, and there was generally another 
troop or two quartered around the place. The main road 
from King Williamstown to the Transkeian territories ran 
through the village. 

At the period of our story, however, there was no lack of 
life or stir about the normally sleepy little place, for it was 
in process of transformation into a huge laager or armed 
camp. Waggons were coming in from several directions — 
laden mo.stly with the families and household goods of flee- 
ing settlers, and the sharp crack of whips and the harsh 
yells of their drivers rose high above the general turmoil. 
Men were bustling to and fro, bent upon nothing in particu- 
lar and looking as though each and all carried the fate of 
a nation in his pockets, or standing in knots at street 
corners, discussing the situation, each perchance with a little 
less knowledge than his neighbour. All sorts of wild rumours 
were in the air, the least of which was that every white in 

• Dutch, " Murderer's Peak." 
»< 



82 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



theTranskai had been massacred, and that Kreli was march- 
ing upon Komgha at the head of the whole Gcaldka army. 

Mrs. Hoste, with her two young daughters, were at the 
door as the party drove up. They received Eanswyth very 
cordially. 

"At last— at last ! Why, we have been looking out for 
you for the last hour. I declare, I began to think you had 
stayed too long at Anta's Kloof, and the Kafirs had taken 
you prisoner or something. How do you do, Mr. Milne ? 
But— come in. We are going to have a dreadful storm in 
a minute. Mercy on us ! What a flash!" 

The blue, steely gleam was followed by a roll of thunder, 
long, loud, reverberatmg. There was a patter upon the zinc 
roof. A few rain-drops, nearly as large as saucers, splashed 
around, and then, almost before the two men could get into 
their waterproof coats, the rain descended with a roar and 
a rush, in such a deluge that they could hardly see to out- 
span the trap. 

Ailamag/itaag ! but that's a fine rain," cried Hoste, 
with a farmer's appreciation, as he swung himself free of 
his dripping mackintosh in the little veranda. 

"Especially for those who are under canvas," said Eus- 
tace with a significant glance at a group of tents pitched upon 
the plain just outside the village. For the surrounding veldt 
had been turned into something like a sea, and a miniature 
torrent roared down every depresssion in the ground, 

" Well, Mr. Milne," cried Mrs. Hoste, from the head of 
the table, as the two men entered. " Its past three o'clock 
and dinner has been ready since half-past one. We quite 
expected you then." 

" Which, being interpreted, means that I must prepare 
for the worst," was the rejoinder. " Never mind. I dare 
say we shan't starve. Well, and what's the latest absurdity 
in the way of news ? " 

" Just what I was going to ask you. You're hand-in-glove 
with all the Kafir chiefs. You ought to be able to give us 
all the news." 

Eu;,tace smiled to himself. He could tell them a few 
things that would astonish them considerably, if he chose. 
But he did not choose. 

"We'll loaf round the village presently," said Hoste. 
" Likely enough we'll hear something then." 



A CURTAIN SECRET. 



83 



" Likely enough it'll be about as reliable as usual," said 
Eustace "What was the last report? Kreli and the 
Gcal^ka array encamped at the Kei Drift— be here in two 

It's all very well to laugh," said Mrs.^ Hoste. " But 
what if we were attacked some fine night ? " 

" There isn't the ghost of a chance of it. Especially with 
all these wondrous fortifications about." 

"I wish I thought you were serious. It would be a 
relief to me if I could think so." 

" Pray do think so, Mrs. Hoste. There is no sort of 
chance of this place being attacked ; so make your mind 
easy." 

"What do you think of our crib, Milne?" struck in 

^"^It seems snug enough. Not palatial, but good enough 
for all purposes. You were lucky to light upon it." 

" Rather. There isn't so much as the corner of a rat 
hole to be had in the whole place now. But, it's knocked 
off raining," as a bright gleam of sunlight shot into the 
room. " Only a thunder-shower. We seem to have done 
dinner. Let's go out and pick up the latest lie. By the way, 
you don't want to go home again to-night, Milne ? We can 
give you a shake-down on the sofa." 

" The fact is I don't. To-morrow will do just as well, 
and then I suppose I'll have to trek with the stock down 
to Swaanepoel's Hoek, while Tom, thirsting for death or 
glory, fills up that tally stick he was telling us about last 

night." , , f iM .t, 

" But don't you intend to volunteer for the front, like the 
rest ? " asked Mrs. Hoste in astonishment. 

" No. Not at present, anyway. I've no quarrel with 
Jack Kafir ; rather the reverse. I own I should like to see the 
campaign, but I couldn't do that without drawing trigger, 
and that's just what I'd rather avoid, except in a case of 
absolute necessity." 

It might have been imagination, but Eustace fancied he 
could detect a look of intense relief pass over Eanswyth's 
features as he announced his desire to avoid the scene of 
hostilities. Yet with so many eyes upon him— upon them 

both he would not look directly at her. Such is the effect 

of an arriire-pensee. Two days ago he would not have 
been careful to study appearances. But a good deal can 



64 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



happen in two days, notably the establishment of a thorough 
understandhig between two persons. 

" We'll go round to Pagel's first," said Hoste, as the two 
men strolled forth. "If rumour has taken shape at all, 
likely as not it's there we shall pick it up." 

They soon reached the hotel. The bar and smoking- 
room were crammed with men — and smoke ; men mostly of 
the farming class ; men with large, sinewy hands, and habited 
partially or entirely in corduroy. There was a very Babel 
of tongues, for pretty nearly every man was talking at once, 
mostly on the all-absorbing topic. Some Were indulging in 
chaff and loud laughter, and a few, we regret to say, were 
exceedingly unsteady on their pins. 

Rumour, our two friends found, had taken shape, and the 
great item of news which everybody was discussing had re- 
ceived the imprimatur of official announcement There had 
bee n a fight between the Gcalekas and the Fingoes, and a 
body of Mounted Police, interfering on behalf of the latter, 
had been defeated and forced to retire with the loss of a 
sub-inspector and half a dozen men. This had happened 
in the Idutywa Reserve two days previously. 

Grave news, was the unanimous verdict. Grave news 
that the enemy should have triumphed in the very first en- 
gagement. Another such success, and every native from 
Natal to the Great Fish River would be up in arms. The 
news would flash from tribe to tribe, from kraal to kraal, 
quicker than a telegraphic message. 

" That you, Payne ? " cried Hoste. 

The man addressed, who formed one of an arguing knot, 
turned. 

"Thought it was," went on the first speaker, shaking 
hands. " Here's Milne, on the scare like the rest of us. 
Carhayes is still on his farm, standing out longer than even 
you, eh Payne ? We brought in his wife to-day, Milne 
and I." 

" Then lie's all right. If it wasn't for our women-kind 
we could all stick to our farms right through," answered 
Payne. "Just think what sort of effect it has on Jack 
Kafir to see every fellow cutting away from him like 
mad." 

"Why don't you practise what you preach then, old 
chap?" put in another man, while three or four more 
laughed significantly, for Payne's opinions were decidedly in 



A CUR TAIN SECRET. 



disfavour among that gathering. " Why do you trek away 
and leave your own place ? " 

" Oh, blazes take you all ! Ain't I jolly well hung round 
with women-kind ? " was the reply, in a rueful, comic tone 
which raised a roar of laughter. " How can I ? " 

"What has become of that Britisher who was staying 
with you ? " asked Hoste. 

A very quaint expression came into the other's face. 
" He's thinking more of love than of war," he answered, 
lowering his voice for Hoste's benefit. " Expect he'll take 
one of the said women-kind off my hands mighty sharp. 
Won't be his fault if he doesn't." 

" Britishers ain't no damn good ! " said a burly fellow 
in corduroy, with a lurch up against Eustace. 

Some of the men looked awkward ; others interested. 
The remark was enough to provoke half a dozen fights, 
especially in that room, frequented as It often was by Police 
troopers, many of whom were young Englishmen of recent 
importation and thus likely to resent such a slur upon the 
home-grown article. But it took a good deal more than 
this to embark Eustace in active hostilities. The expres- 
sion of his immobile features was as if the remark had 
passed unheard. Besides, he saw at a glance that the fellow 
was drunk. 

" I say, you fellows — Hoste, Milne. Lets go and have a 
wet ! " said Payne, making a move towards the bar, partly 
with a view to avoiding any further chance of a row. 
" Put a name to your pet poison and we'll drink confusion 
to old Kreli. Hang it. This atmosphere is enough to 
float a line-of-battle ship. Let's get out of it — when we've 
had our moistener, not before." 

"It's rather rough on me, this shindy," he continued as ' 
they found themselves outside again. " What's the good of 
a fellow laying himself out to improve his place ? Here 
I've got a lot of splendid lands under cultivation. Fountains 
Gap is a perfect jewel in that line, and now I must sacrifice 
the whole lot. Well, we're all in the same boat, that's one 
thing," he added philosophically. " So long, you fellows. 
I must go home. Hallo ! Wonder if those chaps have 
brought any news." 

Three Police troopers rode quickly by, heading for the 
quarters of their commanding oilcer. They had evidently 
ridden express direct from the Transkei, and had not 



86 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



spared their horses either, for both the latter and them- 
selves looked jaded and travel-worn, besides being splashed 
from head to foot with mud. 

The evening passed pleasantly enough. Eustace declined 
his friend's invitation to accompany him again into the 
village to try and learn some more news. After that night 
Eanswyth and he would be parted — for how long, Heaven 
only knew. But in that rather crowded circle there was no 
such thing as even a minute's tete-a-tite, and this he well 
knew. The conversation was all general, still he could 
delight his eyes with the mere sight of her— could let his 
ears revel in the music of her voice. Yet was there a some- 
thing underlying the tone, the glance, of one or both of 
them, which conveyed a more than ordinary meaning ? 

For, that night, long after the bugle calls from the Police 
camps and the carolling of jolly souls wending somewhat 
unsteadily homeward from the convivial bar, had sunk into 
silence, Mrs. Hoste made unto her lord and master a 
strange remark. 

" What a pity Eanswyth didn't marry her husband's 
cousin instead of her husband." 

Great Scott ! What the very deuce do you mean ? " 

" Well, I mean it is a pity. Look how well they seem to 
suit each other. Look at them here to-day. Anyone, any 
stranger coming in hap-hazard, would at once have jumped 
to the conclusion that they belonged to each other. And 
it's a pity they don't. Tom Carhayes isn't at all the man 
for that dear Eanswyth. I should be uncommonly sorry to 
be his wife myself, I know that much." 

" I daresay you would. But Providence has been much 
kinder to you in that line than you deserve. But oh, good 
Heavens, Ada, do be mighty careful what you say. If you 
had propounded that idea of yours to anyone else, for in- 
stance, there's no knowing what amount of mischief it might 
open up." 

" So ? All right. There's no fear of my being such a fool. 
If you've preached enough — have you ? Well, go to 
sleep." 



CHAPTER XV. 



*• BUT I AM THY LOVE." 

Three days later Carhayes arrived. He was in high 
spirits. The remainder of his stock was under way, and, in 
charge of Eustace, was trekking "steadily down to his other 
farm in the Colony, which was sufficiently remote from the 
seat of hostilities to ensure its safety. He had ridden with 
them a day and a half to help start the trrk, and had then 
returned with all haste to enroll himself in the Kaffrarian 
Rangers — a mounted corps, raised among the stock- 
farmers of the district, of whom it consisted almost 
entirely. 

" Wish I was you, Tom," Hoste had said ruefully. 
"Wouldn't I just like to be going bang off to the front to 
have a slap at old Kreli instead of humbugging around here 
looking after stock. This laager business is all fustian. 
I believe the things would be just as safe on the farm." 

"Well, shunt them back there and come along," was 
Carhayes' reply. 

"We are not all so fortunate as you, Mr. Carhayes," 
retorted Mrs. Hoste with a trifle of asperity, for this ad- 
vice was to her by no means palatable. "What would you 
have done yourself, I should like to know, but for that ac- 
commodating cousin, who has taken all the trouble off your 
hands and left you free to go and get shot if you like ? " 

"Oh, Eustace? Yes, he's a useful chap," said Car- 
hayes complacently, beginning to cram his pipe. " What do 
you think the beggar has gone and done ? Why, he has in- 
spanned four or five boys from Nteya's location to help 
him with the trek! The very fellows we are trekking away 
from, by Jove ! And they will help him, too. An extra- 
ordinary fellow, Eustace — I never saw such a chap for 
managing Kafirs. He can make 'em do anything." 

" Well, its a good thing he Can. But doesn't he want to 
go and see some of the fun himself ?" 

" Not he. Qr, if he does, he can leave Bentley in charge 

8? 



88 



'TWEEN SMOW AND FIRE. 



and come back as soon as he has put things straight. 
Bentley's my nrian down there, I let him Hve at Svvaane- 
poel's Hoek and run a little stock of his own on considera- 
tion of keeping the place in order and looking after it 
generally. He'll be glad enough to look after our stock 
now for a consideration — if Eustace gets sick of it and 
really does elect to come and have a shot at his ' blanket 
friends — Ho-ho ! " 

The Kaffrarian Rangers were, as we have said, a corps 
raised in the district. The farmers composing it mounted 
and equipped themselves, and elected their own leaders. 
There was little discipline, in the military sense of the word, 
but the men knew each other and had thorough confidence 
in their leaders. They understood the natives, and were 
as much at home on the veldt or in the bush as the Kafirs 
themselves. They affected no uniforms, but all were clad in 
a serviceable attire which should not be too conspicuous in 
cover — an important consideration — and all were well 
equipped in the way of arms and other necessaries. They 
asked for no pay — only stipulating that they should be en- 
titled to keep whatever stock they might succeed in captur- 
ing from the enemy — which in many cases would be merely 
retaking their own. The Government, now as anxious as it 
had been sceptical and indifferent a month previously, gladly 
accepted the services of so useful a corps. The latter 
numbered between sixty and seventy men. 

This, then, was the corps to which Carhayes had attached 
himself, and among the ranks of which, after two or three 
days of enforced delay while waiting for orders — and after 
a characteristically off-hand farewell to the Hostes and his 
wife— he proceeded to take his place. 

They were to march at sundown and camp for the night 
at the Kei Drift. All Komgha — and its wife — turned out 
to witness their departure. Farmers and storekeepers, 
transport riders and Mounted Police, craftsmen and natives 
of every shade and colour, lined the roadway in serried ranks. 
Tb^re was a band, too, blowing off " God Save the Queen," 
with all the power of its leathern lungs. Cheer after cheer 
went up as the men rode by, in double file, looking exceed- 
ingly workman-like with their well-filled cartridge belts and 
their guns and revolvers. Hearty good-byes and a little 
parting chaff from friends and intimates were shouted after 
th/'Tn through the deafening cheers and the brazen strains 



'BUT I AM THY LOVE. 



89 



of the band, and, their numbers augmented by a contin- 
gent of mounted friends, who were to ride a part of the 
way with them, " just to see them squarely off," the ex- 
tremely neat and serviceable corps moved away into a cloud 
of dust. 

There was another side to all this enthusiasm, however. 
A good many feminine handkerchiefs waved farewell to that 
martial band. A good many feminine handkerchiefs were 
pressed openly or furtively to tearful eyes. For of those 
threescore and odd men going forth that evening in all the 
pride of their strength and martial ardour, it would be 
strange, indeed, if some, at any rate, were not destined to 
leave their bones in a far away grave — ^victims to the bullet 
and assegai of the savage. 

The days went by and grew into weeks, but there was no 
want of life and stir in the little settlement. As Carhaye."? 
had remarked grimly during his brief sojourn therein — life 
appeared to be made up of bugle calls and lies. Hardly a 
half hour that the bugle was not sounding — either at 
the Police camps, or at those of the regular troops now be- 
ing rapidly moved to the front, and scarcely a day went by 
but a corps of mounted burghers or volunteers passed 
through, m route for the seat of war. The store keepers 
and Government contractors laughed and waxed fat. 

All sorts of rumours were in the air, and as usual wildly 
contradictory. The white forces in the Transkei were in 
imminent peril of annihilation. The Gcal6ka country had 
been swept clear from end to end. Kreli was sueing for 
peace. Kreli had declared himself strong enough to whip 
all the whites sent against him, and then with the help of the 
Gaikas and Hlambis to invade and ravage the Eastern 
Province of the Colony. The Gaikas were on the eve of 
rising, and making common cause with their Gcal6ka 
brethren. The Gaikas had not the slightest wish for war. 
The Gaikas were never more insolent and . threatening. 
The Gaikas were thoroughly cowed and lived in mortal 
dread of being attacked themselves. Thus Rumour many 
tongued. 

The while events had taken place at the seat of war. The 
Kafirs had attacked the Ibeka, a hastily fortified trading 
post in the Transkei, in great force.eand after many hours 
of determined fighting luul been repulsed with great loss, re- 
pulsed by a mere handful of the Mounted Police, who, with 



90 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



a Fingo levy, garrisoned the place. Kreli's principal kraal 
on the Xora River had been carried by assault and burnt 
to the ground, — the Gcaleka chieftain, with his sons and 
councillors, narrowly escaping falling into the hands of the 
Colonial forces — and several other minor engagements had 
been fought. But the powerful Gaika and Hlarabi tribes 
located throughout British Kaffraria, though believed to be 
restless and plotting, continued to" sit still," as if watching 
the turn of events, and night after night upon the distant 
hills the signal fires of the savages gleamed beneath the 
midnight sky in flashing, lurid tongues, speaking their mys- 
terious, awesome messages from the Amatola to the Bashi. 

Hoste — who, with other of his neighbours, was occupied 
with the armed tending of his stock in laager — was growing 
daily more restless and discontented. It was cruelly rough 
on him, he declared, to be pinned down like that. He 
wanted to go and have his share of the fun. The war 
might be brought to an end any day, and he would have 
seen nothing of it. He would try and make some satisfac- 
tory arrangement and then get away to the front at once, 
he vowed. In which resolution he met with but lukewarm 
encouragement from his wife. 

" You should just see the yarn that friend of Payne's 
wrote him about the fight at Kreli's kraal, Ada," he re- 
marked one day, having just ridden in. " He says it was 
the greatest sport he ever had. Eh, Payne ? " 

That worthy, who had accompanied him, nodded oracu- 
larly — a nod which might mean anything. Taught wisdom 
by the possession of a partner of his own joys and sorrows, 
he was not going to put himself in active opposition to 
what he termed the Feminine Controller-General's Depart- 
ment. But he and Hoste had hatched out between them 
a little plan which should leave them free, in a day or two, 
to start off in search of the death or glory coveted by their 
martial souls. 

The cottage which Hoste had taken for his family was a 
tiny pill-box of a place on the outer fringe of the settlement, 
fronting upon the veldt, which situation rendered the ladies 
a little nervous at night, notwithstanding an elaborate sys- 
tem of outposts and pickets by which the village was sup- 
posed to be protected. At such a time the presence of 
Eanswyth, of whom they were very fond, was a perfect god- 
send to Mrs. Hoste and her daughters. The latter were 



"BUT I AM THY LOVE. 



91 



nice, bright children of fifteen and thirteen, respectively, 
and there were also two boys — then away at a boarding school 
in Grahamstown. If Eanswyth ever had reason to complain 
of the dulness or loneliness of her life on the farm, here it 
was quite the reverse. Not only was the house so small 
that four persons were sufficient to crowd it, but somebody 
or other, situated like themselves, was always dropping in, 
sitting half the day chatting, or gossiping about the pro- 
gress of the war and the many rumours and reports which 
were flying around. In fact, there was seldom a respite 
from the " strife of tongues,", for no sooner had one batch 
of visitors departed than another would arrive, always in 
the most informal manner. Now, of all this excess of 
sociability, Eanswyth was becoming a trifle weary. 

To begin with, she could obtain little or no privacy. Ac- 
customed to full measure of it in her daily life, she sorely 
missed it now. She even began to realize that what she had 
taken as a matter of course — what, indeed, some of her 
neighbours had half commiserated her for — was a luxury, 
and, like other articles falling under that category, a thing 
to be dispensed with now that they were living, so to say, 
in a state of siege. 

She was fond of the two girls, as we have said ; yet there 
were times when she would have preferred their room to 
their company — would have preferred a long, solitary walk. 
She was fond of her friend and entertainer ; yet that cheery 
person's voluble tongue was apt to be sometimes a trifle 
oppressive. She liked her neighbours and they liked her ; yet 
the constant and generally harmless gossip of the other set- 
tlers' wives and daughters, who were ever visiting or being 
visited by them, regarding work, native servants, babies, en- 
gagements, the war, and so forth, would strike her as bor- 
ing and wearisome to the last degree. There were times 
when she would have given much to be alone — absolutely 
and entirely alone— and think. 

For she had enough to think about now, enough to oc- 
cupy every moment of her thoughts, day and night. But 
was it good that it should be so — was it good ? 

" I am a wicked woman ! " she would say to herself, half 
bitterly, half sadly, but never regretfully— " a fearfully 
wicked woman. That is why I feel so restless, so discon- 
tented." 

Never regretfully ? No ; for the sudden rush of the 



92 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



new dawn which had swept in upon her life had spread over 
it an enchanted glamour that was all-powerful in its sur- 
passing sweetness. That first kiss — alone in the darkness 
of that peril-haunted midnight — had kindled the Fire of the 
Live Coal ; that one long, golden day, they two alone 
together, had riveted the burning link. There was no 
room for regret. 

Yet there were times when she was a prey to the most 
poignant anguish — a woman of Eanswyth's natural and 
moral fibre could never escape that — could never throw 
herself callously, unthinkingly, into the perilous gulf. A 
mixture of sensuousness and spirituality, the spirit would 
ever be warring against the mind — which two are not con- 
vertible terms by any means — and often in the dark, silent 
hours of night a sense of the black horror of her position 
would come upon her in full force. " Heaven help me ! " 
she would cry half aloud in the fervour of her agony. 
" Heaven help me ! " And then would be added the 
mental reservation, " But mi through the means of loss — 
not through the loss of this new and enthralling influence 
which renders the keenest of mental anguish, engrossingly, 
indescribably sweet ! " 

" Save me from the effect, but, oh, remove not the 
cause!" A strange, a paradoxical prayer, but a genuine 
one ; a terribly natural one. Thus poor humanity, from — 
and before — the days of Augustine of Hippo until now— 
until the consummation of the world. 

As the days grew into weeks, the strain upon such a 
nature as Eanswyth's began to tell — as it was bound to do. 
She began to look pale and worn, and in such close com- 
panionship the change could not escape the eyes of her 
friends. 

" Don't you let yourself be anxious, my dear," said a 
motherly settler's wife one day, bursting with a desire to 
administer comfort. The Rangers will soon be back now. 
And they're all right so far— have had some rough work 
and haven't lost a man. Your husband knows how to take 
care of himself ; never fear. Yes, they'll soon be back 
now." 

This was the sort of consolation she had to acquiesce in 
— to receive with a glad smile at the time, and for hours 
after to torture herself with the miserable guilty conscious- 
ness that the fate of the Kaffrarian Rangers was to her a 



'BUT I AM THY LOVE. 



93 



matter of infinitesimal account. There was one, however 
whom appearances were beginning no longer to deceive 
who, in pursuance of the strange and subtle woman's in- 
stinct, which had moved her to make that remark to her 
husband in ca?nera, as recorded in a former chapter, began 
to feel certain that the real object of Eanswyth's solicitude 
was to be found west, not east — back in the peaceful Colony 
instead of in the Transkei braving peril at the hands of the 
savage enemy. That one was Mrs. Hoste. She was not a 
clever woman by "any means — not even a sharp woman, yet 
her mind had leaped straight to the root of the matter. 
And the discovery made her feel exceedingly uncomfortable. 

That farewell, made in outwardly easy social fashion, 
under several pairs of eyes, had been a final one. Eustace 
had not ridden over on another visit, not even a flying one, 
as Eanswyth had hoped he would. Still, bitterly disap- 
pointed as she was, she had appreciated the wisdom of his 
motives— at first. If there was one quality more than an- 
other she had admired in him in times past, it was his thor- 
ough and resolute way of doing a thing. If anything had to 
be done, he did it thoroughly. The undertaking upon which 
he was then engaged certainly demanded all his time and 
attention, and he had given both, as was his wont. Still she 
had hoped he would have found or made some opportunity 
for seeing her once more. 

She had heard from him two or three times, but they 
were letters that all the world might have seen, for Eustace 
was far too prudent to send anything more meaning into a 
house full of other people, and a small and crowded house 
at that. The mere glance of an eye— purely accidental, 
but still a mere glance— on the part of a third person, no 
matter who, would be n ore than sufficient to tumble down 
his fair house of cards n great and irreparable ruin. He 
was not a man to take atiy such risks. 

She had appreciated his caution— at first. But, as time 
went by, the black drop of a terrible suspicion distilled 
within her heart. What if he had begun to think differ- 
ently ! What if he had suffered himself to be carried 
away by a mere moment of passing passion ! What if time 
and absence had opened his eyes I Oh, it was too terrible ! 
It could not be. Yet such things had happened— were 
happening every day. 

An awful sense of desolation was upon her. She hun- 



94 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



gered for his presence — for the sound of his voice — for even 
a scrap of paper containing one loving word which his 
hand had written. To this -had the serene, proud, strong- 
natured woman come. Her love had humbled her to the 
dust. Thus do we suffer through those for whom we 
transgress— thus does the delight of an hour become 
the gcourge of a year. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



" A MADNESS OF FAREWELLS." 

One afternoon Eanswyth managed to steal away for a 
solitary ramble unperceived. In the joy of having actually 
succeeded, she had wandered some little distance from the 
settlement. She felt not the slightest fear. No Kafirs 
would be in the least likely to molest her so near a strongly 
garrisoned post, even if the tribes in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood had been in a state of open hostility, which was 
not at present the case. As for solitude, it was not com- 
plete enough, for the country was open and sweeping and 
there were always horsemen in sight, coming and going in 
the distance, along the main road. 

Half unconsciously she walked in the direction of her 
deserted home. It was a lovely, cloudless afternoon and 
the sun was already beginning to slant towards his western 
bed, darting long rays of gleaming gold upon the wide, 
rolling plains, throwing out with photographic clearness the 
blue outlines of the distant hills. Crickets chirruped glee- 
fully in the grass, and away down in the hollow a pair of 
blue cranes were stalking mincingly along, uttering their 
metallic, but not unmelodious, cry. 

Suddenly the clink of a horse's hoof smote upon her ear. 
It was advancing along the roadway in front. A flush of 
vexation spread over her face. It might be somebody she 
knew — and who would insist upon accompanying her back 
on the score of the disturbed state of the country, if not 
upon that of politeness. She had not stolen away, to 
rejoice like a schoolgirl in her sense of freedom, for that. 
It was very annoying. 

The horseman topped the rise. She gave a little cry, and 
stood rooted to the ground as though her limbs were turned 
to stone. Could it be ? Yes— it was ! 

In a moment he had sprung to the ground beside her. 
She could not move now if she had desired to, for she was 

95 



96 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



held fast in a strong embrace. A rain of warm kisses was 
falling upon her lips — her face. 

" Eanswyth — my darling — my love ! Did you come to 
meet me ?" 

" O Eustace ! I had begun to think you were never 
coming back to me ! Ah, you little know what I have gone 
thrpugh. Dear one, I never knew till now how my very 
life was wrapped up in you ! " she gasped, her voice thrill- 
ing with a very volcano of tenderness and passion as she 
clung to him, returning his kisses again and again, as if she 
could never let him go. 

She did not look unhappy and worn now. Her eyes 
shone with the light of love — the beautiful lips wreathed 
into smiles — her whole face was transfigured with her great 
happiness. 

" Dear love, you have grown more beautiful than ever ; 
and all for me," he murmured in that peculiar tone of his 
which bound her to him with a magnetic force that was al- 
most intoxicating. " It is all for me — isn't it ? " 

" Yes," she answered without hesitation, looking him 
straightly, fearlessly in the eyes. Heaven help her ! 

" And yet you doubted me ! " 

" Eustace, darling, why did you never write to me ? At 
least, why did you only write in that ordinary, formal and 
matter-of-fact way ? " 

" Because it would have been the height of insanity, un- 
der existing circumstances, to have done otherwise. And 
so you doubted me ? You thought that I had only been 
playing with you ? Or that even otherwise I had only to 
be away from you two or three weeks and I could forget ? " 

His tone, low and quiet, was just tinged with reproach. 
But it contained a subtle consciousness of power. And to 
her ears it sounded inexpressibly sweet, for it was this very 
sense of power that constituted the magnetism which drew 
her to him. 

" Yes, I will confess. I did think that,' she answered. I 
can hide nothing from you. You have read my thoughts 
exactly. Ah, my own — my own ! What have I not gone 
through ! But you are with me again. Life seems too 
good altogether." 

" It was our first parting, and a longish one," he said 
musingly as he walked beside her towards the settlement — 
his horse, with the bridle over its neck, following behind 



'•A MADNESS OE FAKE WELLS." 



91 



with the docility of a dog. " It was good for both of us, 
Eanswyth, my life. Now, do you think it was exactly de- 
lightful to me." 

" N-no," she replied plaintively, pressing to her side the 
arm which he had passed through hers as they walked. 
" Though, of late, I haven't known what to think." 

" They will know what to think if you go on looking so 
ridiculously happy," he said meaningly. " The gossip- 
loving soul of mother Hoste will be mighty quick at putting 
two and two together. And then ? " 

"And then ? And then — I don't care — I've ^o\.yoa again," 
she answered with a gleeful laugh. "You — do you hear? 
You— you— ^-i?//." 

He looked rather grave. A struggle seemed to be going 
dti within him. 

" But you won't have me very long, ray dear one. I am 
on my way to the front. In fact, I start this very night. I, 
and Hoste, and Payne." 

No fear of her too happy hjok betraying her now. It 
faded from her eyes like the sunlight from the surface of a 
pool when the black thunder-cloud sweeps over it. It gave 
place to a stricken, despairing expression, which went to 
his heart. 

" You have come back to me only to leave me again 1 O 
Eustace — Eustace ! I am a very wicked woman, and this 
is my punishment. Bat how can I bear it ! " 

Then he calmed her. Strong as he was, his voice shook 
a little as he reasoned with her, pointing out how this 
course was in every way the best. He could not remain 
away down in the Colony, he said, and he had absolutely no 
pretext for staying on at Komgha. Besides, in a small, 
cro^vded and gossipy place, it would be downright madness 
to attempt it. Their secret would be common property in 
a day. He was too restless and unhappy away from her, 
and at present it was impossible to remain near her. The 
chances and excitement of the campaign offered the only 
way out of it. After that, brighter times were in store— 
brighter times, perhaps, than they dared dream of. 

He calmed her— by the force of his reasoning— by the 
very magnelism of his influence ; most of all, perhaps, by 
the power and certainty of his love. Never again could 
she doubt this — never — come what might. And she waS to 
that extent happy amid her grief. 



98 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Though they were at all times the best of friends, the 
welcome Eustace met with at the hands of Mrs. Hoste on 
this occasion was of doubtful cordiality. And the reason 
for this was twofold. First, the fact of his arrival in com- 
pany with Eanswyth went to confirm her rapidly develop- 
ing suspicions. Of course, it was a preconcerted arrange- 
ment. . Narrowly she scrutinized the pair, and failed not to 
discern traces of agitation and anxiety in the demeanour 
and appearance of, at any rate, one of them. Then, again, 
she had just learned, to her dismay, the intention of her 
husband to proceed to the front in a few hours. With this 
defection she did not hesitate to connect Eustace, and she 
was right. Wherefore, she regarded him as a treacherous 
friend at best and scrupled not to tell him as much. 

" It's all very well for you, Mr. Milne," she said. '* You 
have only got yourself to please. But others haven't, and 
you ought to have more sense than to aid and abet a couple 
of responsible fathers of families like Mr, Payne there and 
my stupid husband in any such folly." 

" Ought he ? " guffawed the stupid husband aforesaid, 
from another room where he was cleaning a gun. " But I 
say, Ada ? How is he to get to the front by himself ? It 
wouldn't be altogether safe. So, you see, he's absolutely 
dependent on our escort. Eh, Payne?" 

" ya," replied that worthy, laconically. 

" You should be more patriotic, Mrs. Hoste," murmured 
Eustace. " You see, you give us precious poor encourage- 
ment to die for our country — which process is defined by 
the poet as a sweet and decorous one." 

" Die for your fiddlestick ! " was the half-laughing, half- 
angry reply. " But, as I said before, it's all very well for 
you. Nobody is dependent on you. Nobody cares what 
becomes of you." 

Did they not ? There was one in that room to whom his 
safety was dearer than a hundred lives, whose heart was 
well-nigh bursting with unspoken agony at the prospect of 
the parting which was drawing so near — that parting which 
should send him forth for weeks, for months perhaps, with 
peril and privation for daily companions. Yet she must 
keep up appearances — must maintain a smooth and un- 
troubled aspect. Nobody cared for him ! 

The three men were .to start an hour before midnight, 
and with two more whom they were to meet just outside 



'•A MADNESS OF FAREWELLS.' 



99 



the settlement, reckoned themHelves strong enough to cross 
the hostile ground in comparative safety — reckoning rather 
on evading the enemy than on meeting him in battle with 
such small numbers. And this would be easier, for the 
Gcaleka country had been swept from end to end and its in- 
habitants driven beyond the Bashi— for a time. In which 
process the Kaffrarian Rangers had gallantly borne their 
part. 

As the hour for starting drew near, prodigious was the 
fussiness displayed by Hoste over the preparations. He 
couldn't find this, and he couldn't find that— he wanted 
this done and that done— in short made himself a signal 
nuisance. Now all this was done in accordance with a 
crafty idea of Payne's. " The women will be bound to turn 
on the waterworks. Therefore, give them plenty to do. 
Fuss them out of their very lives so that they won't have 
time so much as to think of snivelling — until we're gone, 
and then it won't matter," had enjoined that unpriiacipled 
philosopher — who had sent his own family down to King 
Williamstown some days previously. 

" Do you mind taking a quarter of an hour's stroll, Eans- 
wyth ? " said Eustace in his most matter-of-fact way, shortly 
before they were due to start. " You see, neither Tom nor 
I can tell ho\y long we may be away, and there are two or 
three things in connection with our joint possessions which 
I should like to discuss with you." 

Eanswyth's heart gave a bound. The time of parting was 
drawing very near, and it seemed as if no opportunity would 
be offered them of seeing each other alone ; that their fare- 
well must be made, even as that other farewell, in the pres- 
ence of half a dozen people. But his readiness of resource 
had hit upon a way, while she, all unnerved as she was, 
could think of nothing. 

It was a lovely night. The thin sickle of a new moon 
hung in the heavens, and the zenith was ablaze with stars. 
Behind, the lights of the village, the sound of voices and 
laughter ; in front, the darkness of the silent veldt. Far 
away against the blackness of the hills glowed forth a red 
fire. 

Thus they stood — alone — and the time seemed all too 
short. Thus they stood — alone beneath the stars, and heart 
was opened to heart in the terrible poignancy of that part- 
ing hour. 



lOO 



'TWEEN' SNOW AND FIRE. 



"Oh, my darling, what if I were never to see you again ! 
What if you were never to come back to me !" burst forth 
Eanswyth in a wail of anguish. " You are going into all 
kinds of danger, but oh, my loved one, think of me through 
it all — think of me if you are tempted to do anything fool- 
hardy. My heart is almost broken at parting with you like 
this. . Anything — anything more, would break it quite." 

" I wish to Heaven mere danger was the only thing we 
had to trouble about," he said, rather bitterly. " But let 
this cheer you, my sweet — cheer us both. You doubted me 
before — you cannot again. We are both so strong in each 
other's love that beside such a possession the whole world 
is a trifle. And better and brighter times may be — must 
be, before us " 

'< Hallo, Milne," shouted the voice of Hoste in the dis- 
tance. " Where are you, man ? Time's up I " 

Both started— in each other's embrace — at this horribly 
jarring and unwelcome reminder. "The fellow needn't 
bawl like all the bulls of Bashan, confound him ! " muttered 
Eustace with a frown.' 

" Eustace — dearest — must we really part now ? " she mur- 
mured in a broken sob, clinging to him more closely. 
"First of all, take this," slipping a small, flat, oblong packet 
into his hand. " Open it — read it — when you are on your 
way, I got it ready, thinking we should have no oppor- 
tunity of being alone together again. And now, love — dear, 
dear love — good-bye. Heaven bless you — no, I must not say 
that, I am too wicked. It would be of no avail coming from 
me " 

" I say, Milne ! Are you coming along with us or are you 
not?" roared Hoste again from his front door. " Because 
if not, just kindly say so." 

" You are under no precise necessity to cause the dead 
to rise, are you, Hoste ?" said Eustace tranquilly, a couple 
of minutes later, as they stepped within the light of the 
windows. " Because, if you had whisjiered I should have 
heard you just as well. As it is, you have about woke up 
the whole of British Kaffraria, and we shall have the sentries 
opening fire upon the veldt at large in a minute. There — 
there goes the Police bugle already." 

" Don't care a hang. We are waiting to start. Here 
come the horses. Now— Good-bye, everyone, and hurrah 
for old Kreli \ " 



"A MADNESS OF FAREWELLS.' 



lOt 



A couple of native stable-hands appeared, leading three 
horses, saddled and bridled. Then there was a good deal 
of tumultuous leave-taking between Hoste and his family 
circle, mingled with sniffling and handkerchiefs, and of 
quieter farewells as concerned the rest of the party. But 
the torn heart of one in that group suffered in silence. 
Eanswith's sweet, proud face was marvellously self-pos- 
sessed. 

" Extraordinary creatures, women," said Payne, as the 
three men rode out of the settlement. " I believe they pos- 
itively enjoy the fun of a good snivel. It's just the same 
with my own crowd. When I left home I was obliged to 
send a note by a boy to say * ta-ta ' to escape it all, don't 
you know." 

Hoste guffawed. It was just the sort of thing that George 
Payne, philosopher and cynic, would do. 

" Some few of them are sensible, though," went on the 
latter, flaring up a vesuvian to light his pipe. "Mrs. Car- 
hayes, for instance. She don't make any fuss, or turn on 
the hose. Takes things as they come — as a rational per- 
son should." 

Hoste guffawed again. 

" Now, George, who the very deuce should she make a 
fuss over or turn on the hose for?" he said. " You or me, 
for instance. Eh ? " 

" N- no, I suppose not. Milne, perhaps. He's a sort of 
brother or cousin or something, isn't he ? " 

If Eustace had felt disposed to resent this kind of free- 
and-easiness he forebore, and that for two reasons. He 
liked the speaker, who, withal, was something of an original, 
and therefore a privileged person, and again the very care- 
lessness of the remark of either man showed that no suspi- 
cion as to his secret had found place in their minds — a mat- 
ter as to which he had not been without a misgiving a few 
minutes back. 

On opening the packet which Eanswyth had put into his 
hand at parting, Eustace found it to consist of a little an- 
tique silver tobacco-box, beautifully chased. This contained 
a photograph of herself, and a letter ; the last a short, hur- 
riedly penned note, which, perused there alone, with all the 
desolation of tiie recent parting fresh upon him, was effect- 
ual to thrill his heart to the very core. 

"And now," it ended — " -A.nd now, oh, my precious one, 



I02 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



good-bye — I dare not say ' God bless you." Coming from 
me it would entail a curse rather than a blessing. I am too 
wicked. Yet, is our love so wicked ? Could it be so 
divinely, so beautifully sweet if it were ? Ah, I neither 
know nor care. I only know that were anything to befall you 
— were you never to come back to me — my heart would be 
broken. Yes, broken. And yet, it would be only just that 
I should suffer through you. Good-bye, my dearest one — 
my only love. We may not meet again alone before you 
start, but I want you, in all your dangers and hardships, 
to have always with you these poor little lines, coming, as 

they do, warm from my hand and heart " 

The writing broke off abruptly and there were signs that 
more than one tear had fallen upon the silent, but oh, so 
eloquent paper. 



CHAPTER XVII. 



IN THE enemy's COUNTRY. 

« Hi, Hoste, Eustace ! Tunable up ! We are to start in 
half an hour." 

It is dark as Erebus — dark as it can only be an hour or 
so before daybreak. The camp-fires have long since gone 
out and it is raining heavily. The speaker, stooping down, 
puts his head into a patrol tent wherein two sleepers lie, 
packed like sardines. 

A responsive grunt or two and Hoste replies without 
moving. 

"Bosh! None of your larks, Tom. Why, it's pitch dark, 
and raining as if some fellow were bombarding the tent with 
a battery of garden hoses." 

" Tom can't sleep himself, so he won't let us. Mean of 
him — to put it mildly," remarks the other occupant of the 
tent, with a cavernous yawn. 

"But it isn't bosh," retorts Carhayes testily. "I tell 
you we are to start in half an hour, so now you know," and 
he withdraws, growling something about not standing there 
jawing to them all day. 

Orders were orders, and duty was duty. So arousing 
themselves from their warm lair the two sleepers rubbed 
their eyes and promptly began to look to their preparations. 

"By Jove ! " remarked Eustace as a big, cold drop hit 
him on the crown of the head, while two more fell on the 
blanket he had just cast off. " Now one can solve the 
riddle as to what becomes of all the played out sieves. 
They are bought up by Government Contractors for the 
manufacture of canvas for patrol tents." 

" The riddle ? Yes. That's about the appropriate term, 
as witness the state of the canvas." 

" Oh ! A dismal jest and worthy the day and the hour." 
rejoined the other, lifting a corner of the sail to peer out. 
It was still pitch dark and raining as heavily as ever. "We 



TWEEN SNOW AXD FIRE. 



can*t make a fire at any price — that means no coffee. Is 
there any grog left, Hoste ? " 
" Not a drop." 

*' H'm ! That's bad. What is there in ihe way of pro- 
vender ? " 
'< Nothing." 

" That's worse. Gcal^kaland, even, is of considerable 
account in the world's economy. It is a prime corner of 
the said orb wherein to learn the art of ' doing without.' " 

The two, meanwhile, had been preparing vigorously for 
their expedition, which was a three days patro. By the 
light of a tiny travelling lamp, which Eustace always had 
with him when possible, guns were carefully examined and 
rubbed over with an oil-rag ; cartridges were unearthed 
from cunning waterproof wrappers and stowed away in 
belts and pockets where they would be all ready for use ; and 
a few more simple preparations — simple because everything 
was kept in a state of readiness — were made. Then our two 
friends emerged from the narrow, kennel-like and withal 
leaky structure which had sheltered them the night through. 

Except those who were to constitute the patrol, scarcely 
anybody was astir in the camp of the Kaffrarian Rangers 
that dark, rainy morning. All who could were enjoying a 
comfortable sleep warmly rolled up in their blankets, as 
men who are uncertain of their next night's rest will do— 
and the prospect looked cheerless enough as the dawn 
lightened. A faint streak in the eastern sky was slowly 
widening, but elsewhere not a break in the clouds, and the 
continual drip, drip, of the rain, mingled with the subdued 
tones of the men's voices, as they adjusted bit and stirrup 
and strapped their supplies in blanket and holster. Three 
days' rations were issued, and with plenty of ammunition, 
and in high spirits the prevailing wetness notwithstanding, 
the men were ready to set forth. 

" This won't last. By ten o'clock there won't be a cloud 
in the sky," said the commander of the corps, a grizzled 
veteran, elected to that post by the unanimous vote of his 
men. In keeping with his habitual and untiring energy, 
which caused his followers often to wonder when he ever 
did sleep, he had been up and astir long before any of 
them. And now he bade them good-bye, and, the patrol 
having mounted, they filed out of camp, the rain running 
in streams down the men's waterproofs. 



m THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY. 



More than three weeks have elapsed since the sacking of 
Kreli's principal kraal, and during this time reinforcements, 
both of colonial levies and Imperial troops, have been 
pouring into the Transkei. Several conflicts of greater or 
less importance have taken place, and the Gcaleka country 
has been effectually cleared, its warlike inhabitants having 
either betaken themselves to the dense forest country along 
the coast, or fled for refuge across the Bashi to their more 
peaceful neighbours, the Bomvanas, who dare not refuse 
them shelter, even if desirous to do so. On the whole, the 
progress of the war has been anything but satisfactory. A 
number of the Gcalekas have been killed, certainly, but 
the tribe is unsubdued. The Great Chief, Kreli, is still at 
large, as are also his sons and principal councillors ; and 
although the land has been swept, yet its refugee inhabit- 
ants are only awaiting the departure of the colonial forces 
to swarm back into their old locations. Meanwhile, a large 
force is kept in the field, at heavy expense to the Colony, 
and in no wise to the advantage of the burghers and volun- 
teers themselves, whose farms or businesses are likely to 
suffer through their prolonged absence. Of late, however, 
operations have been mainly confined to hunting down stray 
groups of the enemy by a system of patrols— with poor re- 
suits— perhaps killing a Kafir or two by a long and lucky 
shot, for the savages have learnt caution and mvariably 
show the invaders a clean pair of heels. 

But no one imagines the war at an end, and that notwith- 
standing a proclamation issuing from the office of the Com- 
missioner of Crown Lands offering free grants of land in 
the Gcaleka country conditional upon the residence of the 
grantee on his exceedingly perilous holding. This procla- 
mation, however, is regarded as a little practical joke on the 
part of the Honourable the Commissioner. Few, if any, 
make application, and certainly none comply with the con- 
ditions of the grant. The while patrolling goes on as vig- 
orously as ever. 

Eustace and his travelling companions had reached the 
camp of the Kaffrarian Rangers in due course. Hoste, 
indeed, would have been elected to a subordinate command 
in the troop had he taken the field at first, but now his 
place was filled up and he must perforce join in a private 
capacity ; which position he accepted with complete equa- 
nimity He could have all the fun, he said, and none of 



lo6 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



the responsibility, whereas in a post of command he would 
have been let in for no end of bother. So he and Eustace 
chum up together, and share tent and supplies and danger 
and duty, like a pair of regulation foster-brothers. 

Our patrol rode steadily on, keeping a sharp look out on 
all sides. Its instructions were to ascertain the whereabouts 
of the enemy and his cattle, rather than to engage him in 
actual conflict. Should he, however, appear in such mod- 
erate force as to render an engagement feasible with a fair 
chance of success, then by all means let them teach him a 
lesson — and ardently did the men hope for such an oppor- 
tunity. They numbered but forty all told, all more or less 
experienced frontiersmen, who knew how to use their rifles 
— all well versed in the ways of bush fighting, and thor- 
oughly understanding how to meet the savage on his own 
ground and in his own way. In short, they reckoned them- 
selves well able to render account of at least six times that 
number of the enemy, their only misgiving being lest the 
wily sons of Xosa should not afford them the chance. 

In spite of his predilection for the dark-skinned bar- 
barians aforesaid and his preference for the ways of peace, 
there was something wonderfully entrancing to Eustace 
Milne in this adventurous ride through the hostile country, 
as they held on over hill and valley, keeping a careful 
watch upon the long reaches of dark bush extending from 
the forest land which they were skirting, and which might 
conceal hundreds — nay thousands — of the savage foe lying 
in wait in his lurking place for this mere handful of whites — 
a something which sent a thrill through his veins and 
caused his eye to brighten as he rode along in the fresh 
morning air ; for the clouds had dispersed now, and the 
sun, mounting into his sphere of unbroken blue, caused the 
wet earth to glisten like silver as the raindrops hung about 
the grass and bushes in clusters of flashing gems. 

" So ! That's better ! " said one of the men, throwing 
open his waterproof coat. " More cheerful like I " 

** It is," assented another. "We ought to have a brush 
with Jack Kafir to-day. It's Sunday." 

Sunday is it ? said a third. " There ain't no Sundays 
in the Trauskei." 

"But there are though, and its generally the day on 
which we have a fight." 



IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY. 



«' That's so," said the first speaker, a tall, wiry young fel- 
low from the Chalumna district. " I suppose the niggers 
think we're such a bloorain' pious lot that we shan't hurt 
'em on Sunday, so they always hit upon it to go in at 
us." 

" Or p'r'aps they think we're having Sunday school, or 
holdin' a prayer meeting. Eh, Bill ? " 
Ja. Most likely." 

They were riding along a high grassy ridge falling away 
steep and sudden upon one side. Below, on the slope, 
were a few woebegone looking mealie fields and a deserted 
kraal, and beyond, about half a mile distant, was the dark 
forest line. Suddenly the leader of the party, who, with 
three or four others, was riding a little way ahead, was seen 
to halt, and earnestly to scrutinize the slope beneath. 
Quickly the rest spurred up to him. 

" What is it ? "— " What's up, Shelton ? " were some of 
the eager inquiries. 

" There's something moving down there in that mealie 
field, just where the sod- wall makes a bend — there, about 
four hundred yards off," replied Shelton, still looking 
through his field glasses. " Stay— it's a Kafir. I saw him 
half put up his head and bob down again." 

Every eye was bent upon the spot, eager and expectant. 
But nothing moved. Then the leader took a careful aim 
and fired. The clods flew from the sod-wall, heavy and 
sticky with the recent rain, as the bullet knocked a great 
hole in it. Simultaneou.ily two naked Kafirs sprang up and 
made for the bush as hard as they could run. 

Bang— bang ! Bang — bang — bang ! A rattling volley 
greeted their appearance. But still unscathed they ran like 
bucks ; bounding and leaping to render themselves more 
difficult as marks. 

Bang — bang ! Ping — ping ! The bullets showered 
around the fleeing savages, throwing up the earth in clods. 
Each carried a gun and had a powder horn and ammunition 
pouch slung round him, besides a bundle of assegais, and 
one, as he ran, turned his head to look at his enemies. Full 
three hundred yards had they to cover under the fire of a 
score of good marksmen. But these were excited. 

" Steady, men ! No good throwing away ammunition ! " 
cried Shelton, the leader. " Better let 'em go." 

But he might as well have spoken to the wind. As long 



'TWEEN- SNOir AND FINE. 



as those naked, bounding forms were in sight so long 
would the more eager spirits of the party emptj their rifles 
at them. Not all, however. Eustace Milne had made no 
attempt to fire a shot. He was not there, as he said after- 
wards, to practise at a couple of poor devMs running away. 
Others, somewhat of the same opinion, confined themselves 
to looking on. But to a large section there present no such 
fastidious notions commended themselves. The secret of 
war, they held, was to inflict as much damage upon the 
enemy as possible, and under whatever circumstances. So 
they tried all they knew to act upon their logic. 

" Whoop ! Hurrah ! They're down ! " shouted some 
one, as the fugitives suddenly disappeared. 

*' Nay what !" said a tall Dutchman, shaking his head. 
" They are only sneaking," and as he spoke the Kafirs re- 
appeared some fifty yards further, but were out of sight 
again in a second. They were taking advantage of a sluit 
or furrow — crawling like serpents along in this precarious 
shelter. 

" Stay where you are — stay where you are," cried Shel- 
ton in a tone of authority, as some of the men made a move- 
ment to mount their horses and dash forward in pursuit. 
" Just as like as not to be a trap. How many more do we 
know are not ' voer-ly-ing ' * in the bush yonder. The 
whole thing may be a plant." 

The sound wisdom of this order availed to check the 
more eager spirits. They still held their pieces in readi- 
ness for the next opportunity. 

" Hoste — Eustace — watch that point where the pumpkin 
patch ends. They'll have a clear run of at least a hundred 
yards there," said Carhayes, who was sitting on an ant-heap 
a little apart from the rest, every now and then taking a 
shot as he saw his chance. 

" It's a devil of a distance," growled Hoste. " Six hun- 
dred yards if it's an inch — Ah ! " 

For the Kafirs sprang up just where Carhayes had fore- 
told, and again, with a crash, many rifles were emptied at 
them. Fifty — thirty — twenty yards more and they will be 
safe. Suddenly one of them falls. 

" He's down — fairly down ! " yelled someone. " A long 
shot, too. Oh — h-h ! He's only winged ! Look ! He's 
up again ? " 

* Dutch: " Lying in wait." 



IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY. 



It was SO. The fallen man was literally hopping on one 
leg, with the other tucked up under him. In a moment 
both Kafirs had reached the cover and disappeared. 

" Well, I never ! " cried Hoste ; " Heaven knows how 
many shots we've thrown away upon those devils and now 
they've given us the slip after all." 

" Anyone would take us for a pack of bloomin' sojers. 
Can't hit a nigger in a dozen shots apiece. Pooh ! " 
growled a burly frontiersman, in tones of ineffable disgust, as 
he blew into the still smoking breech of his rifle. " Eh, 
what's that ? " he continued as all eyes were be'nt on the 
spot where the fugitives had disappeared. 

For a tall savage had emerged from the bush, and with 
a howl of derision began to execute a pas seul in the open. 
Then with a very contemptuous gesture, and shaking his 
assegai at his white enemies, he sprang into the forest 
again, laughing loudly. They recognized him as the man 
who had escaped unhurt. 

"Well, I'm somethinged !" cried Carhayes. " That nig- 
ger has got the laugh of us now." 

" He's a plucky dog," said another. " If any fellow de- 
served to escape he did. Four hundred yards and a score 
of us blazing away at him at once ! Well, well*! " 

" I've known that sort of thing happen more than 
once," said Shelton, the leader of the party, an experi- 
enced frontiersman who had served in two previous wars. 

Same thing in buck shooting. You'll see a score of 
fellows all blazing at the same buck, cutting up the dust all 
round him till you can hardly see the poor beast, and yet 
not touching him. That's because they're excited, and 
shooting jealous. Now with one or two cool shots lying 
up and taking their time, the buck wouldn't have a ghost of 
a show — any more than would those two Kafirs have had. 
But we'd better get on, boys. We'll off-saddle further 
ahead, and then our horses will be fresh for whatever may 
turn up. It's my opinion there are more of those chaps 
hanging about.' 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



THE TABLES TURNED, 

Eager at the prospect of a brush, their appetites for 
which had been whetted by what had just occurred, they 
resumed their way in the best of spirits, and at length fixing 
upon a suitable spot the party off-saddled for breakfast. 

" We ought to fall in with a patrol of Brathwaite's horse 
lower down," remarked a man, stirring the contents of a 
three-legged cooking-pot with a wooden spoon. Then 
we should be strong enough to take the bush for it and 
pepper Jack Kafir handsomely." 

" If we can find him," rejoined another with a loud 
guffaw. " Hallo ! Who's this ? *' 

A dark form appeared in the hollow beneath. Immedi- 
ately every man had seized his rifie, and the moment was a 
perilous one for the new arrival. 

" Hold hard ! Don't fire ! " cried Shelton. It's only a 
single Kafir. Let's see what the fellow wants." And 
lowering their weapons they awaited the approach of a 
rather sulky looking native, who drew near with a suspicious 
and apprehensive expression of countenance. 

"Who are you and where do you come from?" asked 
Shelton. 

"From down there. Baas,'' replied the fellow, in fair 
English, jerking his thumb in the direction of a labyrinth 
of bushy kloofs stretching away beneath. " They have 
taken all my cattle— the Gcalekas have. I can show you 
where to find theirs." 

The men looked at each other and several shook their 
heads incredulously. 

" What are you ? Are you a Gcaleka ? " asked Shelton. 

" No, Baas. Bomvana. I'm Jonas. I'm a loyal Mission- 
Station boy." 

" Oh, the devil you are ! Now, then, Jonas, what about 
these cattle ? " 
Then the native unfolded his tale— how that in the forest 



THE TABLES TURNED. 



Ill 



land immediately beneath them was concealed a large number 
of the Gcaleka cattle — a thousand of them at least. There 
were some men in charge, about sixty, he said, but still the 
whites might be strong enough to take the lot ; only they 
would have to fight, perhaps. 

Carefully they questioned him, but from the main details 
of his story he never swerved. His object, he said, was to be 
revenged on the Gcalekas, who had billeted themselves in 
the Bomvana country and were carrying things with a high 
hand. But Shelton was not quite satisfied. 

" Look here, Jonas," he said Impressively. " Supposing I 
were to tell you that this yarn of yours is ^11 a cock-and- 
bull lie, and that you've come here to lead us into a trap ? 
And supposing I were to tell half a dozen men here to shoot 
you when I count twenty ? What then ? " 

All eyes were fixed upon the native's face, as the leader 
left off speaking. But not a muscle therein quailed. For 
a minute he did not reply. Then he shook his head, with a 
wholly incredulous laugh. 

" Nay, Baas," he said. ''Baas is joking." 

" Well, you must be telling the truth or else you must be 
the pluckiest nigger in all Kafirland to come here and 
play the fool with us," said Shelton. " What do you say, 
boys } Shall we trust to what this fellow tells us and make 
a dash for the spoil ? " 

An acclamation of universal assent hailed this proposal. 
In an incredibly short space of time the horses were saddled, 
and with the native in their midst the whole party moved 
down in the direction of the bush. 

" In here, Baas," said the guide, piloting them down a 
narrow path where they were obliged to maintain single 
file. On either side was a dark, dense jungle, the plumed 
euphorbia rising high overhead above the bush. The path, 
rough and widening, seemed to lead down and down — no 
one knew whither. The guide was not suffered to lead the 
way, but was kept near the head of the party, those immedi- 
ately around him being prepared to shoot him dead at the 
first sign of treachery. 

" D — d fools we must be to come into a place like this 
on the bare word of a black fellow," grunted Carhayes. 
" I think the cuss means square and above board — but 
going down here in this picnicking way— it doesn't seem 
right somehow." 



112 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



But they were in for it now, and ^soon the path opened, 
and before and beneath them lay a network of kloofs 
covered with a thick, jungly scrub, here and there a rugged 
krantz shooting up from the waves of foliage. Not a sound 
was heard as they filed on in the cloudless stillness of the 
sunny forenoon. Even the birds were silent in that great 
lonely valley. 

" There," whispered the Bomvana, when they had gone 
some distance further. " There is the cattle." 

He pointed to a long, winding kloof whose entrance was 
commanded by cliffs on either side. Looking cautiously 
around, they entered this. Soon they could hear the sound 
of voices. 

" By George ! We are on them now," said Shelton in a 
low tone. " But, keep cool, men — only keep cool ! " 

They passed a large kraal which was quite deserted, but 
only just, for the smoke still rose from more than one fire, 
and a couple of dogs were yet skulking around the huts. 
Eagerly and in silence they pressed forward, and lo — turn- 
ing an angle of the cliff — there burst upon their view a sight 
which amply repaid the risk of the enterprise they had 
embarked upon. For the narrow defile was full of cattle — 
an immense herd — which were being driven forward as rapidly 
and as quietly as the two score armed savages in their rear 
could drive them. Clearly the latter had got wind of their 
approach. 

" Allamaghtaag .'" exclaimed one of the men, catching 
sight of the mass of animals, which, plunging and crowding 
over each other, threaded their way through the bush in a 
dozen separate, but closely packed, columns. "Whatatake ! 
A thousand at least ! " 

"Ping — ping! Whigge ! " The bullets began to sing 
about their ears, and from the bush around there issued 
puffs of smoke. The Kafirs who were driving the cattle, 
seeing that the invaders were so few, dropped down into 
cover and opened a brisk fire, but too late. Quickly the 
foremost half of the patrol, reining in, had poured a couple 
of effective volleys into them, and at least a dozen of their 
number lay stretched upon the ground, stone dead or writh- 
ing in the throes of death ; while several more might be 
seen limping off as well as tliey could, their only thought now 
being to save their own lives. The rest melted away into 
the bush, whence they kept up a tolerably brisk fire, and the 



THE TABLES TURNED. 



113 



bullets £nd bits of pot-leg began to whistle uncomfortably 

»^Now boys ! " cried Shelton. " Half of you come with 
rae— and Carhayes, you take the other half and coUect the 
cattle, but don't separate more than to that extent. And 
in furtherance of this injunction the now divided force rode 
off as hard as it could go, to head the animals back— stum- 
bling among stones, crashing through bushes or flymg oyer 
the same— on they dashed, helter-skelter, hardly knowmg 
at times how they kept their saddles. 

Amid much shouting and whistling the terrified creatures 
were at last turned. Down, the defile they rushed— eyes 
rolling and horns clashing, trampling to pulp the dead or 
helpless bodies of some of their former drivers who had 
been shot in the earlier stages of the conflict. It was an 
indescribable scene— the dappled, many-coloured hides flash- 
iuir in the sun as the immense herd surged furiously down 
that wild pass. And mingling with the shouting and con- 
fusion, and the terrified lowing of the cattle half-frenzied 
with the sight and smell of blood— the overhanging cliffs 
echoed back in sharper tones the " crack-crack of the 
rifles of the Kaffirs, who, well under cover themselves, kept 
up a continuous, but luckily ineffective, fire upon the patrol. 

Suddenly a dark form rose up in front of the horsemen. 
Springing like a cat the savage made a swift stab at the 
breast of his intended victim, who swerved quickly, but not 
quickly enough, and the blade of the assegai descended, in- 
flicting an ugly wound in the man's side. Dropping to the 
ground again, the daring assailant ducked in time to avoid 
the revolver bullet aimed at him, and gliding in among the 
fleeing cattle, escaped before the infuriated frontiersman 
could get in another shot. So quickly did it all take place 
that, except the wounded man himself, hardly anybody knew 
what had happened. • .1 - 

"Hurt, Thompson?" sung out Hoste, seeing that the 
man looked rather pale. 

" No. Nothin' to speak of, at least. Time enough to 
see to it by and by." , 

As he spoke the horse of another man plunged and then 
fell heavily forward. The poor beast had been mortally 
stricken by one of the enemy's missiles, and would never 
rise again. The dismounted man ran alongside ot a com- 
rade, holding on by the stirrup of the latter. 



114 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



"Why, what's become of the Bomvana?" suddenly 
inquired someone. 

They looked around. There was no sign of their guide. 
Could he have been playing them false and slipped away in 
the confusion ? Even now the enemy might be lying in wait 
somewhere in overwhelming force, ready to cut off their 
retreat. 

" By Jove ! There he is ! " cried another man presently. 
" And — the beggar's dead !" 

He was. In the confusion of the attack they had forgot- 
ten their guide, who must have fallen into the hands of the 
enemy, and have been sacrificed to the vengeance of the 
latter. The body of the unfortunate Bomvana, propped up 
in a sitting posture against a tree by his slayers in savage 
mockery, presented a hideous sight. The throat was cut 
from ear to ear, and the trunk was nearly divided by a ter- 
rible gash right across it just below the ribs, while from 
several assegai stabs the dark arterial blood was still oozing 
forth. ^ 

"Faugh !" exclaimed Hoste with a grimace of disgust, 
while two or three of the younger men of the party turned 
rather pale as they shudderingly gazed upon the sickening 
sight. " Poor devil ! They've made short work of him, 
anyhow." 

"H'm! I don't wonder at it," said Shelton. "It must 
be deuced rough to be sold by one of your own men. 
Still, if that chap's story was true he was the aggrieved 
party. However, let's get on. We've got our work all be- 
fore us still." 

They had. It was no easy matter to drive such an 
enormous herd through the thick bush. Many of the 
animals were very wild, besides being thoroughly scared 
with all the hustling to and fro they had had— and be^an 
to branch off from the main body, drawing a goodly num- 
ber after them. These had to be out-manoeuvered, yet 
it would never do for the men to straggle, for the Kafirs 
would hardly let such a prize go without straining every 
effort to retain it. Certain it was that the savages were 
following them in the thick bush as near as they dared, 
keenly watching an opportunity to retrieve — or partially 
retrieve — the disaster of the day. 

Cautiously, then, the party retreated with their spoil, 
seeking a favourable outlet by which they could drive their 



THE TABLES TURNED, 



unwieldy capture into the open country ; for on all sides 
the way out of the valley was steep, broken, and bushy. 
Suddenly a shout of warning and of consternation went up 
from a man on the left of the advance. All eyes were 
turned on him— and from him upon the point to which he 

signalled. j t 

What they saw there was enough to send the blood tjack 

to every heart. 



CHAPTER XIX. 



THE LAST CARTRIDGE. 

This is what they saw. 

Over the brow of the high ridge, about a mile in their 
rear, a dark mass was advancing. It was like a disturbed 
ants' nest — on they came, those dark forms, swarming over 
the hill — and the sun glinted on assegai blades and gun- 
barrels as the savage host poured down the steep slope, 
glancing from bush to bush, rapidly and in silence. 

" I'm afraid we shall have to give up the cattle, lads, and 
fight our way out," said Shelton, as he took in the full 
strength of the advancing Kafirs. " Those chaps mean 
business, and there are too many of them and too few of 
us." 

"We'll make it hot for 'em, all the same," said Carhayes, 
with a scowl. " I have just put two more nicks on my gun- 
stock — not sure I oughtn't to have had four or five, but am 
only certain of two Hallo ! That's near." 

It was. A bullet had swept his hat off, whirling it away 
a dozen yards. At the same time puffs of smoke began to 
issue from the hillside, and the twigs of the bushes beyond 
were sadly cut about as the enemy's missiles hummed over- 
head — but always overhead — pretty thickly. At first, the 
said enemy was rather chary of showing himself, although 
they could see groups of red figures flitting from bush to 
bush, and the whigge of bullets and potlegs became more 
and more unpleasantly near, while from the slope above 
jets of smoke and flame kept bursting forth at all points. 

The plan of the whites was to make a running fight of it. 
While one-half of the patrol drove on the cattle, the other 
half was to fight on foot, covering their comrades' retreat, 
but always keeping near enough to close up, if necessary. 

" Now, boys — let 'em have it ! " cried Shelton, as a 
strong body of the enemy made a sudden rush upon their 
left flank to draw their attention, while another parly, with a 
chorus of shouts and deafening whistles, and waving their 

ii6 



THE LAST CAI'^TRfDGF.. 



117 



assegais and karosses, darted in between the cattle and their 
captors, with the object of separating and driving off the 
former. 

A volley was discharged — with deadly effect, as testified 
by the number who fell, wounded, maimed, or stone dead. 
The rest rushed on, gliding in among the fleeing cattle — 
whistling and yelling in a frenzy of excitement. 

" Keep cool, boys, and fire low," cried Carhayes — who 
was in command of the dismounted party — as a crowd of 
Kafirs suddenly started up on their rear, and, with assegais 
uplifted, threatened a determined charge. " Now ! " 

Again there was a roar, as the whole fire was poured 
into the advancing mass. Even the horses, steady, trained 
steeds as they were, began to show restiveness, terrified by 
the continuous crash of firing and the fierce yells of the 
savages. Then, without pausing to reload, every man dis- 
charged his revolver into the very thick of the leaping, 
ochre-smeared warriors. It was too much. The latter 
wavered, then dropped into cover. 

But the respite was only a temporary one. Changing his 
tactics, the fierce foe no longer attempted an open coup de 
main, but taking advantage of the bush he pressed the 
handful of whites who formed the rear guard so hotly as 
to force them to close up on their comrades, in order to 
avoid being entirely surrounded and cut off from the latter. 
But however bad had been their marksmanship earlier in 
the day, while excited and practising at the two fleenig 
Kafirs at long range, our frontiersmen were now in a differ- 
ent vein. There was nothing wild about their shooting now. 
Steady of eye, and cool of brain, they were keenly alive to 
every opportunity. Directly a Kafir showed his head he 
was morally certain to receive a ball through it, or so un- 
comfortably close as to make him feel as if he had escaped 
by a miracle, and think twice about exposing himself a 
second time. 

Meanwhile the cattle were being driven off by the enemy, 
and indeed matters had become so .serious as to render this 
a mere secondary consideration. From the bush on three 
sides a continuous fire was kept up, and had the Kafirs been 
even moderately decent shots not a man of that patrol 
would have lived to tell the tale ; but partly through fear 
of exposing themselves, partly through fear of their own 
fire-arms, to the use of which they were completely unaccus- 



ii8 



'TWEEJV SjVOIV AND FIRE. 



tomed, the savages made such wild shooting that their 
missiles flew high overhead. Now and then, however a 
shot would take effect. One man received a bullet in the 
shoulder, another had his bridle hand shattered Several 
of the horses were badly wounded, but, as yet, there were 
no fatalities. The enemy, confident in the strength of his 
overwhelming numbers, waxed bolder-crowding in closer 
and closer. Kvery bush was alive with Kafir warriors, who 
kept startmg up when and where least expected in a man- 
ner that would have been highly disconcerting to any but 
cool and determined men. 

But this is just what these were. All hope of saving the 
spoil had been abandoned. The frontiersmen, dismounted 
now, were gghting the savages in their own way, from bush 
to bush. ^ 

" This is getting rather too hot," muttered Shelton, with 
an ominous shake of the head. " We shall be hemmed in 
directly. Our best chance would be for someone to break 
through and ride to the camp for help." Yet he hesitated 
to despatch anyone upon so dangerous a service. 

Just then several assegais came whizzing in among them 
Two horses were transfixed, and Hoste received a slieht 
wound in the leg. * 

" -^TT" • ',' ^"^'^^ furiously, stamping with pain, while a 
roar of laughter went up from his fellows, " Let me catch a 
squint at John Kafir's sooty mug ! Ah ! " 

His piece flew to his shoulder— then it cracked He 
had just glimpsed a woolly head, decked with a strip of 
jackal s skin, peering from behind a bush not twenty yards 
away, and whose owner, doubtless, attracted by the laughter 
of those devil-may-care whites, had put it forward to see 
what the fun was about. A kicking, struggling sound 
mingled with stifled groans, seemed to show that the shot 
had been effective, 

*' Downed him ! Hooray ! " yelled Hoste, still squirming 
under the smart of the assegai prick in his calf. " Charge of 
/^Jtf/jrrj that time— must haveknocked daylight through him 
_ Taking advantage of this diversion, a tall, gaunt Kafir 
rising noiselessly amid a mass of tangled creepers, was 
deliberately aiming at somebody. So silent had been his 
movements, so occupied were the other whites, that he was 
entirely unperceived. His eye went down to the breech 
He seemed to require a long and careful aim. 



THE LAST CARTRIDGE. 



119 



But just then he was perceived by one, and instinctively 
Eustace brought his piece to bear. But he did not fire. 
For like a flash he noted that the savage was aiming full 
at Carhayes' back. 

The latter, sublimely unconscious of his deadly peril, 
was keenly alert on the look out for an enemy in the other 
direction. Eustace felt his heart going like a hammer, 
and he turned white and cold. There in the wild bush, 
surrounded by ruthless enemies, the sweet face of Eanswyth 
passed before him, amid the smoke of powder and the crash 
of volleys. She was his now — his at last. The life which 
had stood between them now stood no more. 

With a frightful fascination, he crouched motionless. 
Carhayes was still unconscious of his imminent peril — his 
broad back turned full to the deadly tube of the savage. 
The distance was barely fifteen yards. The latter could 
not miss. 

It all passed like lightning — the awful, the scathing 
temptation. He could not do it. And with the thought, 
his finger pressed ever so lightly on the trigger, and the 
Kafir crashed heavily backward, shot through the brain — 
while the ball from his gun, which, with a supreme effort 
he had discharged in his death throes, hummed perilously 
near his intended victim's head. 

" Hallo, Milne ! You got in that shot just right," cried 
one of the men, who had turned in time to take in the situa- 
tion — not the whole of it, luckily. 

Eustace said nothing. His better nature had triumphed. 
Still, as he slipped a fresh cartridge into his smoking piece, 
there was a feeling of desolation upon him, as though the 
intoxicating sense of possessing the whole world had be^n 
within his grasp, and as suddenly reft from it again. The 
extremely critical position in which he — in which the whole 
party — stood, passed unheeded. " Fool ! " whispered the 
tempting, gibing fiend. *' You had your opportunity and 
you threw it away. You will never have it again. She is 
lost to you forever now. Never can you hope to possess 
her ! " 

And now the firing opened from an unexpected quarter — 
and behold, the bushy slope in front was alive with Kafir 
warriors. The patrol was entirely surrounded, and now 
the savages began to shout exultantly to each other. 

" We have got the white men in a hole," they cried. " Ha! 



I20 



'TWEEN' SNOW AND FIRE. 



They cannot get out. Look, the sun is shining very 
bright, but it will be dark for the white men long before it 
touches the hill. They are caught like wolves in a trap. 
Hau ! " 

" Ho-ho ! Are they ! " sung out Carhayes, in reply to 
this taunt. " When a wolf is caught in a trap, the dogs 
cannot kill him without feeling his teeth. The Amaxosa 
dogS have caught not a wolf, but a lion. Here is one of his 
bites." And quick as lightning he brought up his rifle and 
picked off a tall Gcal^ka, who was flitting from one bush to 
another a couple of hundred yards above. The Kafir 
lurched heavily forward, convulsively clutching the earth 
with both hands. A yell of rage arose from the savages 
and a perfect hail of bullets and assegais came whistling 
around the whites — fortunately still overhead. 

" Aha ! " roared Carhayes with a shout of reckless 
laughter. " Now does any other dog want to feel the lion's 
bite ? Ha, ha ! I am he whom the people call Umlilwane. 
' The Little Fire ' can burn. He it was who helped to burn 
the kraal of Sarili, the Great Chief of the House of Gcal^ka. 
He it is who has ' burned ' the life out of many dogs of the 
race of Xosa. He will burn out the lives of many more ! 
Ha, ha — dogs — black scum I Come forth ! Try who can 
stand before The Little Fire and not be burned up — utterly 
consumed away ! Come forth, dogs, come forth ! " 

Catching their comrade's dare-devil spirit, the men laughed 
and cheered wildly. But the Kafirs, full of hate and rage, 
forgot their prudence. A great mass of them leaped from 
their cover, and shrilling their wild war-whistles, snapped 
their assegais off short, and bore dow^n upon the handful of 
whites in full impetuous charge. 

Critical as the moment wa.s, the latter were prepared 
never more dangerously cool than now when it was almos, 
a case of selling their lives dearly. They instantly gave way, 
melting into cover with the serpent-like celerity of the sav- 
ages themselves, and before these could so much as swerve, 
they poured such a deadly cross-fire upon the compact on. 
rushing mass that in a second the ground was strewn wit/ 
a groaning, writhing heap of humanity. 

With a roar like a wild beast, Carhayes sprang from hi . 
cover and, wrenching a heavy knob-kerrie from the hand ot 
a dead Kafir, dashed among the fallen and struggling foe, 
striking to right and left, braining all those who showed the 



rJ/E LAST CARTRIDGE. 



121 



slightest sign of resistance or even of life. A Berserk feroc- 
ity seemed to have seized the man. His hair and beard 
fairly bristled, his eyes glared, as he stood erect, whirling 
the heavy club, spattered and shiny with blood and brains. 
He roared agani : 

" Ho, dogs ! Come and stand before the lion I Come, 
feel his bite — who dares ? Ha, ha ! " he laughed, bringing 
the kerrie down with a sickening crash upon the head of a 
prostrate warrior whom he had detected in the act of making a 
last desperate stab at him with an assegai — shattering the 
skull to atoms. " Come, stand before me, cowards. Come, 
and be ground to atoms." 

But to this challange no answer was returned. There 
was a strange silence among the enemy. What did it por- 
tend ? That he was about to throw up the game and with- 
draw ? No such luck. His strength was too great, and he 
was burning with vengeful rage at the loss of so many men. 
It could only mean that he was planning some new and 
desperate move. 

" I say, Milne, lend us a few cartridges ; I've shot away 
all mine." 

Eustace, without a word, handed half a dozen to the 
speaker. The latter, a fine young fellow of twenty-one, was 
enjoying his first experience in the noble game of war. He 
had been blazing away throughout the day as though con- 
scious of the presence of a waggon-load of ammunition in 
the patrol. 

"Thanks awfully— Ah-h !" 

The last ejaculation escaped him in a kind of shuddering 
sigh. His features grew livid, and the cartridges which he 
had just grasped dropped from his grasp as he sank to the 
ground with scarcely a struggle, A Kafir had crawled up be- 
hind him, and had stabbed him between the shoulders with 
a broad-bladed assegai — right through to the heart. A 
deep vengeful curse went up from his comrades, and they 
looked wildly around for an object on which to exact retri- 
bution. In vain. The wily foe was not going to show 
himself. 

But the incident threw a new light upon the state of 
affairs, and a very lurid one it was. Several had run out of 
ammunition, but had refrained from saying so lest the fact, 
becoming known, should discourage the others. Now it 
was of no use disguising matters further. There were 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 

barely fifty rounds left among the whole patrol that is to 

say, something less than a round and a half per man. And 
they were still hemmed in by hundreds of the enemy, closely 
hemmed in, too, as the recent fatality proved, and it still 
wanted a good many hours till dark. Small wonder that a 
very gloomy expression rested upon almost every counte- 
nance. The position was almost as bad as it could possibly 
be. • 



CHAPTER XX. 



THE TABLES TURNED AGAIN. 

Suddenly a tremendous volley crashed forth from the 
hillside on their left front, followed immediately by another 
on the right. For a moment the men looked at each other 
in silence, and the expression of gloomy determination 
hitherto depicted on their countenances gave way to one of 
animated and half-incredulous relief. 

For no sound of hostile volley was that. No. Help was 
at hand. Already they could see the Kafirs gliding from 
bush to bush in groups, hastening to make good their retreat, 
thoroughly disconcerted by this new and disastrous sur- 
prise. 

'* Whoop ! — Hooray ! Yoicks forward ! " shouted the 
beleaguered combatants, each man giving his particular 
form of cheer, varying from savage war-cry to view halloo. 
They were wild with excitement, not only by reason of their 
unlocked for deliverance from almost certain massacre, but 
also on account of being in a position to turn the tables 
upon their skulking foe. 

Then came the crack — crack — crack — of the rifles of the 
new arrivals, who advanced rapidly, yet not entirely without 
caution, through the bush, picking off the retreating Kafirs 
as these showed themselves in fleeing from cover to cover. 
And above the crackle of the dropping shots rang out the 
wild notes of a bugle, villainously played. A roar of laugh- 
ter went up from our friends. 

" Brathwaite's Horse for a fiver ! " cried Hoste. " That's 
Jack Armitage's post-horn. I know its infamous old bray — 
And — there's Brathwaite himself." 

" Any of you fellows hurt ? " sung out the latter, a fine, 
stalwart frontiersman, who, with several of his men, rode 
down upon the group. The remainder were spread out in 
skirmishing line on either side, the irregular rattle of their 
fire showing that they were still busy peppering the enemy 
in sight. 

1S3 



124 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



"One man killed," answered Shelton. "It's Parr, poor 
chap," 

" So ? Well, fall in with us and come on. We haven't 
done with Jack Kafir yet." 

" Can't. We're all but cleaned out of ammunition." 

" So ?" said Brathwatte again. " We've turned up none 
too. soon then. Fortunately we've got plenty." 

A hurried levy was made upon the cartridge belts of the 
new arrivals, and thus reinforced in every sense of the 
word, the Kaffrarian men, keen to avenge their comrade 
and retrieve their position, fell in with their rescuers, and 
the whole force moved rapidly forward in pursuit of the 
enemy. 

But the latter had hastened to make himself scarce. 
With characteristic celerity, the wily savages seemed to have 
melted into earth or air. If thirty-five whites — a mere 
handful— had given them about as much fighting as they 
could stomach, they were not going to stand against that 
handful multiplied by three. 

"There they go !" suddenly shouted someone, pointing 
to the almost bare brow of a. hill about half a mile away, over 
which a number of Kafirs were swarming in full retreat. 
A tremendous fusillade was opened upon this point, but 
with slight effect. The distance was too great. 

"We must get th« cattle," cried Brathwaite, Shelton hav- 
ing hurriedly given him the particulars. " And we must 
race for them, too, for they'll have got a good start. They 
are sure to take them right away to that big bit of forest 
which runs down to the coast. Once there they are safe 
as far as we are concerned. I know this strip of coun- 
try." 

Armitage, the man who owned the bugle, and who was 
known to most there present either personally or by name, 
as a licensed wag and an incorrigible practical joker, was in- 
structed to blow a call of assembly. This he did, in hideous 
and discordant fashion, and the men collected. Briefly 
Brathwaite explained the situation. 

" Beyond this first rise there's another," he said. " Beyond 
that there's five miles of open veldt ; then the strip of forest 
I was mentioning. If we don't get the cattle in the open 
we shan't get them at all. Forward ! " 

No second command was needed. The whole force 
pressed eagerly forward. At length, after a toilsome ride, 



THE TABLES TURNED AGAIN. 



during which not an enemy was seen, excejit here and there 
the body of a dead one lying in a pool of blood, they crested 
the brow of the second ridge. A great shout arose. 
" There they are ! Now then, boys— cut 'em out ! " 
Away in front, about five miles distant, lay a long, dark 
line of forest. Half way between this and themselves an 
immen.se herd of cattle was streaming across the veldt. 
The drivers, about two score in number, were at first seen 
to redouble their efforts to urge on the animals. Then, at 
sight of the white horsemen bearing down upon them with 
a wild cheer, they incontinently abandoned their charge and 
fled for dear life. 

" Never mind the niggers," sang out Brathwaite, as one 
or two of his men tried to rein in for a snap shot at the 
flying Kafirs. " Never mind them. Head the cattle round 
for all you know. If once they get into the bush we may 
lose any number of them." And spurring into a gallop he 
circled round before the excited herd, followed by his 
whole troop. The foremost beasts stopped short, throwing 
up their heads with many a snort and bellow of bewilder- 
ment and terror, while the bulk of the herd pressed on 
Tor some mmutes the clashing of horns and frenzied bel- 
lowing, the clouds of dust, and the excited shouts of the 
horsemen made up an indescribable scene of din and con- 
fusion. Many of the animals, rolled on the ground by the 
plunging, swaying mass, were trampled or gored to death 
by their bewildered companions. At last the tumultuous 
excitement began to subside, and the animals, with heaving 
flanks and rolling eyes, stood huddled together as if 
waiting the pleasure of their new drivers. 
"Steady! Don't rush them," shouted Brathwaite. 
" Head them away quietly for the open for all you know 
and don't let them break through." ' 
More than one comical scene was enacted as the line of 
horsemen, extended so as to gradually work the herd away 
from the bush, drove their charge forward. , Now and then 
a cow, with a calf at her side, or haply missing her progeny 
would turn and furiously charge the line of horsemen, 
causmg an abrupt scatter,.and in one or two instances the 
utter and ignommious flight of the doughty warrior 
singled out, who perchance was only too thankful to lay her 
out with a revolver shot in the nick of time to save himself 
and his steed, or both, from being ripped up or impaled by 



126 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



those vicious horns. But the best fun of all was afforded 
b)^ a huge old black-and-white bull. 

Jack Arniitage, we have said, was bursting with animal 
spirits ; consequently when the aforesaid quadruped took it 
into his massive cranium to suddenly break away from the 
herd and start off on his own account at right angles there- 
to, it followed, as a matter of course, that Arraitage, being 
nearest to him, should spur away in pursuit. The bull's 
vicious little eyes began to roll wickedly, and from a trot he 
broke into a wild gallop. Then madcap Jack, madder than 
ever with the excitement of the day's events, was seen to 
range his horse alongside, and bending over in the saddle and 
placing his bugle almost against the animal's ear he blew a 
hideous and terrific blast. There was a ferocious bellow 
— down went the brute's head, and, lo, in a twinkling horse 
and man were rolling on the ground, and the bull galloped 
away unimpeded. 

Roars of laughter arose from the discomfited one's com- 
rades, which did not decrease as they watched the savage 
brute in the distance charging one of the retreating Kafirs, 
who seemed almost as much disconcerted by this new 
enemy as he had been by the missiles of his human foes. 
Finally both disappeared within the bush. 

" Hurt, old man ? " cried Hoste, riding up as the fallen 
one found his feet again, and stood rubbing his shoulder 
and looking rather dazed with the shock. The horse had 
already struggled up. Fortunately for it, the bull's horns 
were short and blunt, and it seemed none the worse for the 
tumble. 

" No. Had a devil of a shake-up, though. A bottle of 
doctor's stuff's a fool to it." 

" Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast — sings 
the poet. In this case it hadn't," said Eustace. " Those 
ancients must have been awful liars. Eh, Armitage ?" 

" You bet. Hallo ! Where's my old post-horn ? " he 
went on, looking round for his instrument, which he discov- 
ered about a dozen yards off, unharmed, save for a slight 
dent. Putting it to his lips he blew a frightful fanfare. 

" I say, Jack, you'll have the old bull back again," said 
Brathwaite. " Better shut up. He's dead nuts on that old 
trumpet of yours. And now, the farther we get into the 
open, the better. We mustn't camp anywhere that'll give 
Johnny Kafir a chance of cutting out the cattle again." 



THE TABLES TURNED A OA IN. 



127 



" We've done a good day's work, anyhow," said Shelton. 
<« This isn't half a bad haul — and it's fairly decent stock for 
Kafir stock." 

" Kafir stock be d — ^d ! " growled Carhayes. Whatever 
is decent among it is stolen stock, you bet. Not much 
sleep for any of us to-night, boys. We shall mostly all have 
to keep our eyes skinned, if we are to take in this lot safe. 
Whoever of us are not on horse guard will be on cattle 
guard." 

They were joined by the few men who had remained be- 
hind to guard the corpse of their slain comrade. This was 
conveyed in a sort of litter, improvised of blankets and 
slung between two quiet horses ; and now to the dash and 
excitement of the conflict and pursuit, there succeeded a 
subdued quiet, almost a gloom, by reason of the presence 
of the dead man in their midst. Still— it was the fortune of 
war. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



UNDER ORDERS FOR HOME. 

The Kaffrarian Rangers were ordered home. 

To be strictly accurate, that redoubtable corps had ap- 
plied to be withdrawn. There was not enough to do to 
render it worth the while of the men who composed it — 
men mostly with a substantial stake in the country — to re- 
main any longer wasting their time in a series of fruitless 
patrols on the off-chance of an occasional very long dis- 
tance shot at a stray Gcaleka scout or two ; for the enemy 
no longer attempted to meet them in battle. He had suf- 
fered severely, both in men and possessions, and there were 
those who declared that he had had nearly enough of it. 
The Frontier Armed and Mounted Police and, if neces- 
sary, the regular troops now stationed along the border, 
would be sufficient to cope with any further disturbance ; 
so most of the volunteer forces applied to be withdrawn. 

They had been several weeks in the veldt — several weeks 
absent from their farms and businesses. They had rendered 
excellent service ; had, in fact, constituted the very back- 
bone of the offensive operations. It was only fair, now 
that there remained no more to be done, to allow them to 
return. Brathwaite's Horse had already withdrawn, so had 
most of the mounted corps. The Kaffrarian Rangers were 
nearly the last. 

The men were in excellent health and spirits. They had 
lost one of their number — the poor young fellow who 
had met his fate with the patrol under Shelton, and had 
been buried near where he fell — a few had received wounds, 
none of these being, however, of a very serious nature. 
But they had left their mark upon the enemy, and were re- 
turning, withal, in possession of a large number of the lat- 
ter's cattle. Yet they had a grievance, or fancied they 
had. 

They had not nearly enough fighting. The combined 
plan of the campaign had not been carried out according to 

u8 



UNDER ORDERS FOR HOME. 



129 



their liking. The enemy had been suffered to escape just 
at the very moment when it was within their power to inflict 
upon him a decisive and crushing blow. There had been 
too much of the old womanly elemert among those intrusted 
with the conduct of affairs. In a word, the whole business 
had been bungled. And in this thoroughly characteristic 
and British growl none joined more heartily than Tom 
Carhayes. 

There was one, however, who in no wise joined in it at 

all, and that one was Eustace Milne. He had had enough 
of campaigning to last him for the present, and for every 
reason mightily welcomed the news that they were ordered 
home. Of late an intense longing had come upon him to 
return, but now that that ardently desired consummation had 
been attained he realized that it was dashed with the sicken- 
ing and desolating consciousness of hopes shattered. The 
campaign, so far as he was concerned, had been barren of 
result. 

But for him — but for his intervention — Tom Carhayes 
would have been a dead man, and Eanswyth would be free. 
The Kafir could not have missed at that distance. But for 
his interference the bullet of the savage would have sped 
true, and happiness for him — for her — would have become 
the blissful, golden, reality of a lifetime. Even now he would 
be hurrying back to claim her — that is, allowing for a reason- 
able period exacted by decorum. But no, the cup was 
shattered in his grasp, and his own was the hand that had 
shattered it. *' A man who interferes in what doesn't con- 
cern him deserves all he gets," was the grimly disgusted 
reflection which lashed his mind again and again. 

Why had he intervened to save his cousin's life ? When 
Fortune was playing directly into his hands he, yielding to 
an idiotic scruple, had deliberately flung back into her face 
the chance she had held out. She would not proffer it again. 
His opportunity had occurred and he had let it go by. 

Yet he could not have acted otherwise. Could he not ? 
he thought savagely, as at that moment his cousin's voice 
struck upon his ear. Not that its utterances contained any- 
thing objectionable, but to the listener's then frame of mind, 
there was something insufferably self-assertive in their very 
tone. Could he not ? Let him only get the chance again. 
But this he never would. It was thought by many that the 
war was practically at an end. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



If his cousin had been a different stamp of man and one 
built of finer clay, it is more than probable that Eustace 
would have acted differently — would have conquered that 
overmastering and unlawful love which he had so long and 
so successfully concealed, or at any rate would have fled 
from temptation. But it was far otherwise. The fellow 
was such a rough, assertive, thickheaded, inconsiderate 
boor, utterly unable to appreciate his own splendid good 
fortune. He deserved no mercy. Yet this was the being 
to whom Eanswyth was bound — whom, moreover, she had 
managed to tolerate with every semblance of, at any rate, 
contentment, until he himself had laid seige to the castle 
of her outwardly calm, but glowingly passionate nature, 
and had carried it by storm, by a single coup de main. 

And novi' ? How could she ever resume that old con- 
tented toleration, how relegate himself to an outside place. 
Every look — every word of hers— during that last walk, when 
he had come upon her so unexpectedly — every sweet and 
clinging caress during that last parting, was burnt into his 
memory as with red-hot irons. And now it seemed that 
the curtain must be rung down on everything. Tom Car- 
hayes was returning in rude health ; louder, more boastful, 
a more aggressive personality than ever. Let the very 
heavens fall ! 

A change had come over Eustace. He became moody 
and taciturn, at times strangely irritable for one of his 
equable temperament. This was noticed by many ; won- 
dered at by some. 

" Why, what's the row with you, old chap ! " said Car- 
hayes one day in his bluff, off-hand manner. " Sick and 
sorry that we can't scare up another fight, eh ? " 

" Milne's conscience is hitting him hard over the number 
of his ' blanket friends ' he has shot already. Ha, ha!" 
cut in another man, with an asinine guffaw. 

The Kaffrarian Rangers were ordered home. The order 
reached them in their camp on the Bashi, and forthwith 
they acted upon it. No preparations delayed the setting 
out of such a light-marching-order corps. Accordingly 
the breakfasts were cooked and eaten, the camp was 
struck, and the whole troop started upon its homeward way. 

" I say, Hoste ! " said Carhayes, while they were break- 
fasting on boiled mealies and ration beef. " What do you 



UNDER ORDERS FOR HOME. 1 31 

say to a shoot before we leave this ? We are bound to get 
a bushbuck ram or two in some of these kloofs." 

" Haven't you shot away enough cartridges yet, Tom?" 
laughed Hoste. " Still I think we might try for a buck if 
only for a change after the niggers ; besides, we can eat the 
buck, which is part of the change. I'm on. What do you 
say, Payne ? Will you cut in ? " 

" What do I say ? I say it's the most damn idiotic idea 
I ever heard mooted," answered Payne sententiously. 
" Still— I'll cut in." 

" All right. We'll have some sport then ! " said Car- 
hayes. " You'll come, too, Eustace ? That's right," as 
Eustace nodded assent. " That'll make four of us — we 
don't want any more," he went on. " We can just hunt 
down the river bank for two or three hours, and catch up 
the troop in camp to-night. We are bound to get some 
sport." 

" Likely so are the niggers," murmured the more pru- 
dent Payne. 

The commander of the troop, when applied to, made no 
decided objection to the above scheme. There was, as we 
have said, no discipline in the ordinary sense of the word, 
the ofifices of command being elective. Besides, they were 
under orders to return straight home, which was practically 
disbandment. So, while not forbidding the undertaking, 
he pointed out to those concerned that it might involve 
serious risk to themselves ; in a word, was rather a crack- 
brained idea. 

" Just what I said," remarked Payne laconically, light- 
ing his pipe. 

" Then why do you go, old chap ?" asked one of the by- 
standers with a laugh. 

" That's just what I don't know myself," was the reply, 
delivered so tranquilly and deliberately as to evoke a 
general roar. 

The camp had been pitched upon high ground overlook- 
ing the valley of the Bashi, which ran beneath between 
rugged bush-clad banks. So the troop set forth on its 
homeward way, while our four friends, turning their horses' 
heads in the opposite direction, struck downward into the 
thick bush along the river bank. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



"WE ARE FOUR FOOLS." 

For upwards of two hours they forced their way through 
the thick scrub, ^ut success did not crown their efforts — did 
not even wait upon the same. Once or twice a rustle and 
a scamper in front announced that something had got up 
and broken away, but whatever it was, owing to the thick- 
ness of the bush and the celerity with which it made itself 
scarce, not one of the hunters could determine— being un- 
able so much as to catch a glimpse of the quarry. At 
length, wearied with their failure to obtain sport under ab- 
normal difficulties, they gained the edge of the river, and 
there, upon a patch of smooth greensward beneath the cool 
shade of a cliff, they decided to off-saddle and have a snack. 

'■■By Jove I" exclaimed Hoste, looking complacently 
around. " This is a lovely spot for a picnic. But wouldn't 
John Kafir have us in a hole just, if he were to come upon 
us now ? " 

" We are four fools," said Payne sententiously. 

" We are," growled Carhayes. " You never said a truer 
word than that. Four d— d fools to think we'd get a shot 
at anything in a strip of cursed country we've been chevy- 
ing niggers up and down for the last six weeks. And as 
the idea was mine, I suppose I'm the champion fool of the 
lot," he added with a savage laugh. " We haven't fired a 
shot this blessed morning, and have had all our trouble for 
nothing." 

This was not precisely the reflection that Payne's words 
were intended to convey. But he said nothing. 

" I'm not sure we have had our trouble for nothing," 
put in Eustace. " It's grand country, anyhow." 

It was. Magnificent and romantic scenery surrounded 
them ; huge perpendicular krantzes towering up many hun- 
dreds of feet ; piles upon piles of broken rocks and boul- 
ders, wherein the luxuriant and tangled vegetation had 
profusely taken root ; great rifts and ravines, covered with 

»3» 



" IFE ARE FOUR FOOLS" 133 

dense black forest, and the swift murmuring current of the 
river joining its music with the piping of birds from rock 
and brake. 

But the remark was productive of a growl only from 
Carhayes. He had not come out to look at scenery. They 
had had enough and to spare of that during the campaign. 
He had come out to get a shot at a buck, and hadn't got it. 

Pipes were lighted, and the quartette lounged luxuriously 
upon the sward. The frowning grandeur of the towering 
heights, the golden glow of the sunlight upon the tree tops, 
the soft, sensuous wannlh of the summer air, the hum of 
insects, and the plashing murmur of the river, uncon- 
sciously affected all four — even grumbling, dissatisfied Tom 
Carhayes. 

" Whisht ! " said Payne suddenly, holding up his hand to 
enjoin silence, and starting from his lounging attitude. The 
others were prompt to follow his example. 

" What's the row, George ? " whispered Hoste below his 
breath. *' Hear anything ?" 

For answer Payne waved his hand again and went on 
listening intently. 

Up the sunlit river came a sound — a sound audible to 
all now, a sound familiar to all — the tread of hoofs upon 
the stones, of unshod hoofs. Mingling with this were other 
sounds — the low murmur of human voices. Water, as 
everybody knows, is a great conductor of sound. Though 
more than half a mile distant, they recognized the deep 
tones and inflections of Kafir voices, whose owners were 
evidently coming down to the river on the same side as 
themselves. 

From their resting place the river ran in a long, straight 
reach. Peering cautiously through the bushes, they were 
able to command this. Almost immediately several large 
oxen, with great branching horns, emerged from the forest, 
and, entering the water, splashed through to the other side. 
They were followed by their drivers, three naked Kafirs, 
who plunged into the river in their wake, holding their 
assegais high over their heads, for the water came fully 
breast-high. They could even hear the rattle of the assegai 
hafts as the savages climbed up the opposite bank, laugh- 
ing like children as they shook the water drops from their 
sleek, well-greased skins. I'hey counted thirteen head of 
cattle. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



" A baker's dozen, by Jove ! Stolen, of course," whis- 
pered Hoste. " Allamaghiaag J if only we had known of 
that before we might have gone to voer-ly* that drift, for 
it must be a drift. We might have bagged all three niggers 
and trundled the oxen back to camp. A full span, save 
thr?e. Suppose they've eaten the rest. That'll be one 
apiece — tht schelms .'" 

" It isn't altogether too late now," said Carhayes. " I 
smell some fun ahead. Let them get. up over the rise, and 
then we'll go down and look if their spoor seems worth 
following." 

" And what if they are only the advance guard of a lot 
more ? " suggested Hoste. 

" They are not," was the confident reply. " There are too 
few beasts and too few niggers. I tell you there's some fun 
sticking out for us." 

Quickly the horses were saddled. A high, bushy ridge 
precluded all chance of their presence being discovered by 
the three marauders as soon as the latter had crossed the 
river, and it certainly had not been discovered before. 
Then, having allowed sufficient time to elapse, they forded 
the river and rode forward on the other side, so as to con- 
verge on the spoor leading up from the drift below. 

" Here it is— as plain as mud," said Carhayes, bending 
over in his saddle to examine the ground, which, dry and 
sandy, showed the hoof-prints and footmarks so plainly that 
a child might have followed them. " They are well over 
the rise by now, and the way isn't so rough as I expected. 
Our plan is to make straight for the top of the hill. We 
can't get up much quicker than they can, I'm afraid, unless 
we want to blow our horses, which we don't. But once we 
are up there we shall find it all open veldt, and all we've got 
to do is to ride them down in the open, shoot the niggers, 
and head the stock back for the river again. Anyone pro- 
pose an amendment to that resolution ? " 

"We are four fools,"' said Payne laconically, knocking 
the ashes out of his pipe and pocketing that useful imple- 
ment. . , 

" Ja > That's so," said Carhayes, joining heartily in the 
laugh which greeted this remark. " And now, boys, are we 
on for the fun, that's the question ? " 

" We just are," cried Hoste, whose dare-devil recklessness 

* Waylay. 



" WE A HE FOUR FOOLS." 



was akin to that of Carhayes. The other two acquiesced 
silently, but as they caught each other's glance, a cunous 
satirical twinkle lurked in the eyes of both men. 

» A case of the tail wagging the dog," presently whispered 
Payne to Eustace. " Two wise men led by two fools ! 

The track, rough and stony, took longer to follow than 
they had expected. Moreover they had to exercise extreme 
care lest the clink of the hoof-stroke of a shod horse per- 
chance stumbling on the rocky way should be borne to the 
quick, watchful ears of those they were following. At 
length however, the brow of the ridge was gained, and there 
before theni lay a rolling expanse of open country, yet not 
so open as Carhayes.had predicted, for it was pretty thickly 
dotted with mimosa, and the grass was long, coarse, and 
tangled, rendering rapid riding dangerous in parts. 

Suddenly they came right upon a kraal nestlmg in a 
mimosa covered valley. Three old hags were seated against 
one of the beehive shaped huts, otherwise the place 
seemed quite deserted. No children were to be seen— not 
even a half-starved cur skulking ar(Kiiid— and of men or 
cattle there was no sign. The spoor they were following 
had grown very indistinct, and here seemed to split up into 
several directions. 

The old women, frightful, toothless crones, all wrinkles 
and flaps, showed no signs of alarm at this unexpected 
appearance of the invading white men. On the contrary, 
they began to abuse them roundly in a shrill, quavering 
treble 

" Macbeth in excelsts ! " murmured Eustace at sight of 

*^^'^"top that cackling, you old hell-cats ! " said Carhayes 
with a growl like that of a savage dog, as he drew his 
revolver and pointed it right at them, a pantomime which 
they thoroughly understood, for their high-pitched abuse 
dropped to a most doleful howl. "Here, Eustace. You 
can patter the lingo better than any of us, and I haven t the 
patience, d— n it ! Ask these old rag bags which way the 
fellows with the oxen took." 

" We know nothing about men or oxen," came the prompt 
and whimpering reply. 

"You do know. Tell us quickly!" repeated Eustace 

warningly. . . j 

Sullenly the first disclaimer was reiterated. 



136 



*TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE, 



A furious expletive burst from Carhayes. 

*' We can't lose any more time being fooled by these in- 
fernal old hags ! " he cried. " If they don't tell us before 
I count five I'll put a bullet through each of them. Now— 
Inye — zimbini — zintdlu " * 

"Hold hard, don't be a fool," warned Payne. "The 
shots are bound to be heard." 

" So they are. I know a better trick than that." And 
striking a match Carhayes walked his horse up to the 
nearest hut. This was sufficient. The old crones shrieked 
for mercy, while one of them quavered out : 

"Ride that way, abeMngu!"\ pointing in a direction 
they had not intended to take. " But you will have to ride 
far — very far." 

Believing they had inspired sufficient terror to insure the 
truth of this information, and furiously cursing the time 
wasted in eliciting it, Carhayes crammed the spurs into his 
horse's flanks and started off at a gallop, followed by the 
other three. But the old crone's statement proved correct. 
A couple of miles further the tracks, which had been more 
or less scattered and indistinct, converged into one broad 
spoor. Another ridge, then down into a kloof, and up the 
other side. Then, as they gained the brow of yet another 
ridge, an excited ejaculation burst from the lips of all four. 
Nearly a mile in front, stringing up a long, gradual acclivity, 
trotted the thirteen oxen, urged forward by three natives. 

" Hurrah ! Now we'll cut 'em otit ! " yelled Carhayes, 
as they dashed forward in pursuit. The Kafirs, loath to 
abandon their spoil until absolutely forced to do so, re- 
doubled their efforts, as with loud shouts and waving 
karosses they strove to accelerate the pace of the already 
overdriven animals. 

" We'd better risk a long shot," shouted Hoste, as it be- 
came apparent that the pursued were very near the lop of 
the rise, and in another moment would be out of sight. 

There may be a lot of bush on the other side, and we 
may lose them." 

" No. Better not lose time or distance," said the more 
prudent Payne. " We'll have 'em directly." 

* One — two — three, 
f White men. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 



"ONWARD THEY PLY — IN DREADFUL RACE." 

THE Kafirs, with their spoil, had disappeared on the 
pursuers gaining the ridge, there seemed as Hoste had 
LrJested a prefty good chance of losing them altogether ; 
or^?he mere' dep^reiion of the ground down wh.ch they 
were racing, narrowed and deepened into a long wmding 
vallev thick y overgrown with mimosa bushes and tall grass. 
The ^mara^^^^^^^ could now be seen straining every nerve o 
cain this-with their booty, if possible-if not, without it^ 
Ivery shouted summons to them to stand or be sho seemed 
onlyL have the effect of causing them to redouble their 
efforts-winding in and out among the grass and thorn- 
bushes with the rapidity of serpents. 

The pursuers were gaining. Rough and tangled as the 
ground now became, the speed of horses was h";^^d o tell 
in the race. A few moments more and the spoil would be 
theirs. Suddenly, but very quietly, Eustace said : 

" I sav you fellows— don't look round, but— turn your 
horses' heads and ride like the devil ! We are m a trap ! 
% amazed, the startled look that came upon the faces 
of those three would have been entertaining ^^ ^he extreme 
but for the seriousness of the occasion. However they 
were men accustomed to critical situations. Accordingly 
^fey s ackened, as directed, and f^ddenly headed round 
their horses as if they had decided to abandon the pursui 

Not a minute too soon had co.ne Eustace's discovery and 
warning Like the passing movement of a sudden gust 
The g £s and bushes rustled and waved, as a long line o 
ambtfshed savages sprang up on either side, and with a wild 
and deafeningl^ell charged forward upon the thoroughly 
disconcerted and now sadly demoralized f"^^- , 

The Kafirs had been lying hidden in h^'^^f ^.^/^^/^^^^.^^^^^^^ 
Hid our friends advanced a hundred yards further their 
?oom woi^d have been sealed They would have bee 
hemmed in completely. Happily, however, when Eustace 



'TWEEN SXOW AJVD FIRE. 



Uttered his warning, they had not quite got betvveen the 
extremities of the " shoe." 

As it stood, however, the situation was appilling to the 
last degree. Terrified to madness, the horses became 
almost unmanageable, rearing and plunging in a perfect 
frenzy of fear, and it was all that their riJers could do to 
steer them through the bristling thornbushes, a single 
plunge into one of which would, at the rate they were 
going, hurl both steed and rider to the earth. And, again, 
the wild war-cry pealed through the valley, and every bush 
and tussock of grass seemed to grow enemies — seemed to 
swarm with dark, sinuous forms, to blaze with the gleam of 
assegai blades and rolling eyeballs. The race for spoil 
had become a race for life. 

There had been barely a hundred yards between them 
and their assailants when the latter first sprang up, and this 
distance had alarmingly decreased, for the nature of the 
ground, rough and overgrown with long, tangled grass, 
and the fact that they were being forced up-hill, tended to 
neutralize whatever advantage might lie with the mounted 
men. Moreover the horses, in no small degree blown after 
their recent spurt, were not at their best, whereas the Kafir 
warriors, active, hard as iron, had the advantage on that 
rough ground. On they pressed— their lithe, sinuous, ochre- 
greased bodies flashing through the grass like serpents — 
whooping, shouting, rending the air with their shrill, ear- 
splitting war- whistles. Although many of them had guns, 
yet not a shot vvas fired. Either those who led did not care 
to waste time in stopping to aim, and those who were be- 
hind feared to injure their friends in front ; or for some 
reason of their own they were anxious to capture the white 
men alive. On it sped, that fearful race, the pursuers 
slowly but surely gaining. And now, from the sw^arming 
numbers of the main body, "horns" began to spread out 
at an angle to the line of flight as though to close up and 
intercept them further on, at some point best known to 
themselves. 

It was a case of every man for himself. Hoste and 
Payne had gained some slight start, Eustace and Carhayes 
bringing up the rear. The latter, gripping his revolver, 
was in the act of delivering a shot into the thick of a mass 
of warriors who had raced up to within ten yards of them, 
when his horse stumbled. The animal had put its foot 



ONWARD THEY PLY— IN DREADFUL RACE. 139 



into an ant-bear hole concealed in the long grass. Down 
it came, plunging heavily forward on its nose, and shooting 
its rider over its head. 

A deafening roar of exultation went up from the pur- 
suers as they flung themselves upon Carhayes. Still, half- 
stunned as he was, the desperate pluck of the unfortunate 
man caused hira to make an effort to rise. Only an effort 
though. As he rose to his knees he was beaten to the 
ground in a moment beneath the savage blows of the kerries 
of his assailants. 

Eustace heard the crash of the fall„and turning his head, 
in spite of the deadly risk he rah in suffering his attention 
to wander from his own course even for a second, he took 
in the whole scene — the crowd of whooping, excited bar. 
barians, clustering round the fallen man, assegais and ker- 
ries waving in the air, then the dull, sickening sound of 
blows. And even in that moment of deadly peril, his own 
fate as hopeless as that of the slain man, a thrill of fierce 
exultation shot through him. Fortune had once more 
played into his hands. Eanswyth was his. He had got his 
second chance. This time it was out of his power to throw 
it away even had he wished to do so. Still — the mockery of 
it ! It had come too late. 

Meanwhile, Payne and Hoste, being the best mounted, 
had obtained some little start, but even upon them the e.x- 
tended lines of the fierce pursuers were beginning to close. 

" Now, George — both together ! Let 'em have it !" yelled 
Hoste, pointing his revolver at the foremost of a mass of 
Kafirs who were charging in upon them on his side. The 
ball sped. The savage, a tall, sinewy warrior, naked as at 
his birth save for a collar of jackal's teeth and a leather 
belt round his waist, leaped high in the air and fell stone 
dead, shot through the heart. At the same time Payne's 
pistol spoke, and another barbarian fell, his knee shattered 
by the bullet. Crack ! and down went another while in the 
act of poising his assegai for a fling. 

" Up-hill work, but nearly through ! "cried Payne as he 
dropped another of the pursuers in his tracks. The fright- 
ened steeds, with ears thrown back and nostrils distended, 
tugged frantically at their bits as they tore along, but the 
agile barbarians seemed to keep pace with them, though 
they refrained from again attempting to close. But now 
they began to throw their assegais. One of these grazed 



I40 'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 

* 

Payne's shoulder and stuck fast in the ground ''V^ro'it, 
quivering nervously. Another scored the flank ^?ste s 
horse, causing the poor animal to snort and bound with the 
sharp pain. Another stuck into Payne's boot, v.Yile a fourth 
hit Hoste fair between the shoulders but toving been 
hurled at long range and being withal a somewhat blunt 
weapon, it failed to penetrate the stout cord jacket 

"Devilish good shot, that," remarked the target. But 
I sav George, where are the other fellows ?" 

" Dunno ! It's a case of every man for himself now, and 
all his work cut out at that." _ 

All this had been the work of but a few minutes, and now 
the brow of the hill was reached. A furious and bitter 
curse burst from the pair. , ■ r f 

For on the plain beneath, converging upon their line ot 
flight in such wise as to meet and utterly cut them off, 
extended two strong bodies of the enemy. 1 hese had cir- 
cled round the hill, while the fugitives had been forced to 
the top of it, and now they would join hands before the 
latter could hope to pass through the rapidly closing circle 
"Through them, George. It's our only show! cried 
Hoste. And with the reins gripped in his left hand and 
his revolver in his right, he sat down to his saddle for the 
last and final charge. It was a wildly exciting moment-the 
issues, life or death. 

The lines were rapidly closing in. With maddened yells 
and assegais uplifted, the Kanr warriors were straining 
every effort to complete that fatal circle. A few yards 
more-twenty-ten ! it was done. They were hemmed in 
But the headlong, dashing valour of the two jnen stood 
them well. Not a moment did they pause. With a wild 
shout Hoste put his horse straight at a huge barbarian who 
strove to stop him-knocking the savage sprawling, and 
through the opening thus breached the two horsemen sho 
like an arrow from the bow, and having the advantage of 
a down-hill course they left the fierce and yelling crowd be- 
hind in a trice. Far from safe were they yet. A hole con- 
cealed in the grass— a strained sinew— a hundred unfore- 
seen circumstances— and they would be at the mercy of 
their merciless foes. , 
\nd now the latter began to open fire upon them, and 
the crackle of the volley behind mingled with the ugly hum 
of missiles overhead and around* 



OI^WARD THEY PLY— IN DREADFUL RACE. 141 



" Alia mag htaag .' My horse is hit!" exclaimed Payne, 
feeling the animal squirm under him in a manner there was 
no mistaking. 

"So?" was the concerned reply. "He's got to go, 
though, as long as you can keep him on his legs. If we 
can't reach the river, or at any rate the thick bush along it, 
we're done for." 

They turned their heads. Though beyond the reach of 
their missiles now, they could see that the Kafirs had by no 
means relinquished the pursuit. On they came — a dense, 
dark mass streaming across the plain — steady of cruel pur- 
pose — pertinacious as a pack of bloodhounds. Hoste's 
steed was beginning to show ominous signs of exhaustion, 
while that of his companion, bleeding freely from a bullet 
hole in the flank, was liable to drop at any moment. And 
the welcome bush was still a great way off — so, too, was the 
hour of darkness. 

Meanwhile Eustace, spurring for dear life, realized to the 
bitter full that the terrible event which, in spite of himself, 
he had so ardently desired, could be of no benefit to him 
now. For he knew that he was doomed. Nothing short 
of a miracle could save his life — which is to say, nothing 
could. The very earth seemed to grow enemies. Behind, 
around, in front, everywhere, those catlike, sinuous forms 
sprang up as if by magic. Suddenly his bridle was seized. A 
mass of warriors pressed around him, assegais raised. Quick 
as thought he pointed his revolver at the foremost, and 
pressed the trigger ; but the plunging of his horse nearly un- 
seated him, and the ball whistled harmlessly over the Kafir's 
shoulder. At the same time a blow on the wrist knocked 
the weapon from his grasp. He saw the gleam of assegai 
points, the deadly glare of hatred in the sea of rolling eyes 
closing in upon him. Then a tall warrior, springing like a 
leopard, struck full at his heart with a large, broad-bladed 
assegai. 

It was done like lightning. The flash of the broad blade 
was in his eyes. The blow, delivered with all the strength 
of a powerful, muscular arm, descended. A hard, numbing 
knock on the chest, a sharp, crashing pain in the head — 
Eustace swayed in his saddle, and toppled heavily to the 
earth. And again the fierce death-slioiu pealed forth over 
the wild veldt, was taken up and echoed in tones of 



142 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



hellish exultation from end to end of the excited barbarian 
host. 

The night has melted into dawn ; the dawn into sunrise. 
The first rays are just beginning to gild the tops of the 
great krantzes overhanging the Bashi. At the foot of one 
of these krantzes lies the motionless figure of a man. 
Dead ? No, asleep. Slumbering as if he would never 
wake again. 

There is a faint rustle in the thick bush which grows 
right up to the foot of the krantz— a rustle as of something 
or somebody forcing a way through— cautiously, stealthily 
approaching the sleeper. The latter snores on. 

The bushes part, and a man steps forth. For a moment 
he stands, noiselessly contemplating the prostrate figure. 
Then he emits a low, sardonic chuckle. 

At the sound the sleeper springs up. In a twinkling he 
draws his revolver, then rubs his eyes, and bursts into a 
laugh. 

" Don't make such a row, man," warns the new arrival. 
" The bush may be full of niggers now, hunting for us. 
We are in a nice sort of a hole, whichever way you look at 
it." 

"Oh, we'll get out of it somehow," is Hoste s sanguine 
reply. " When we got separated last night, I didn't know 
whether we should ever see each other again, George. I sup- 
pose there's no chance for the other two fellows ? " 

'•Not a shadow of a chance. Both wiped out." 

" H'm I Poor chaps," says Hoste seriously. " As for 
ourselves, here we are, stranded without even a horse be- 
tween us ; right at the wrong end of the country ; hostile 
niggers all over the shop, and all our fellows gone home. 
Bright look out, isn't it ! " 

"We are two fools," answers Payne sententiously. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



A DARK RUMOUR IN KOMGHA. 

There was rejoicing in many households when it became 
known in Komgha that the Kaffrarian Rangers had been 
ordered home, but in none was it greater than in that run 
conjointly by Mrs. Hoste and her family and Eanswyth 
Carhayes. 

The satisfaction of the former took a characteristically 
exuberant form. The good soul was loud in her expres- 
sions of delight. She never wearied of talking over the 
doughty deeds of that useful corps ; in fact, to listen to her 
it might have been supposed that the whole success of the 
campaign, nay the very safety of the Colony itself, had been 
secured by the unparalleled gallantry of the said Rangers in 
general and of the absent Hoste in particular. That the 
latter had only effected his temporary emancipation from 
domestic thrall in favour of the " tented field" through a 
happy combination of resolution and stratagem, she seemed 
quite to have forgotten. He was a sort of hero now. 

Eanswyth, for her part, received the news quietly 
enough, as was her wont. Outwardly, that is. Inwardly 
she was silently, thankfully happy. The campaign was 
o\tx-~he was safe. In a few days he would be with her 
again — safe. A glow of radiant gladness took possession 
of her heart. It showed itself in her face— her eyes— even in 
her voice. It did not escape several of their neighbours and 
daily visitors, who would remark among themselves what a 
lucky fellow Tom Carhayes was ; at the same time wonder- 
ing what there could be in such a rough, self-assertive speci- 
men of humanity to call forth such an intensity of love in 
so refined and beautiful a creature as that sweet wife of 
his— setting it down to two unlikes being the best mated. 
It did not escape Mrs. Hoste, who, in pursuance of her 
former instinct, was disposed to attribute it to its real cause. 
But exuberant as the latter was in matters non-important, 
there was an under-vein of caution running through her 



143 



144 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



disposition, and like a wise woman she held her tongue, 
even to her neighbours and intimates. 

Eanswyth had suffered during those weeks — had suffered 
.terribly. She had tried to school herself to calmness — to 
the philosophy of the situation. Others had returned safe 
and sound, why not he ? Why, there were men living around 
her, old settlers, who had served through three former wars — 
campaigns lasting for years, not for months or weeks — their 
arms, too, consisting of muzzle-loading weapons, against an 
enemy more daring and warlike than the Kafirs of to-day. 
These had come through safe and sound, why not he ? 

Thus philosophising, she had striven not to think too 
much — to hope for the best. But there was little enough 
in that border settlement to divert her thoughts from the one 
great subject — apart from the fact that that one subject was 
on everybody's tongue, in everybody's thoughts. She had 
found an interest in the two young girls, in reading with 
them and generally helping to improve their minds, and 
they, being bright, well-dispositioned children, had appreci- 
ated the process ; had responded warmly to her efforts. 
But in the silent night, restless and wakeful, all sorts of 
grisly pictures would rise before her imagination, or she 
would start from frightful dreams of blood-stained assegais 
and hideous hordes of ochre-painted barbarians sweeping 
round a mere handful of doomed whites standing back to 
back prepared to sell their lives dearly. 

Every scrap of news from the seat of war she had caught 
at eagerly. She had shuddered and thrilled over the ac- 
count of the battle with Shelton's patrol and its stirring 
and victorious termination. Every movement of the Kaf- 
frarian Rangers was known to her as soon as it became pub- 
lic property, and sometimes before ; for there were some in 
an ofificial position who were not averse to stretching a 
point to obtain such a smile of welcome as would come into 
the beautiful face of Mrs. Carhayes, if they confidentially 
hinted to her a piece of intelligence just come in from the 
front and not yet made known to the general public. She 
had even tried to establish a kind of private intelligence 
department of her own among some of the Kafirs who hung 
around the settlement, but these were so contradictory in 
their statements, and moreover she began to suspect that 
the rascals were not above drawing pretty freely upon their 
imaginations for the sake of the sixpences, or cast-off clothes, 



A DARK RUMOUR IN ICOMGHA. 



MS 



or packets of coffee and sugar, with which their efforts were 
invariably rewarded. So this she discontinued, or at any 
rate ceased to place any reliance on their stories. 

She had heard from her husband once or twice, a mere 
rough scrawl of half a dozen lines, and those chiefly de- 
voted to explaining that camp life — made up as it was of 
patrols and horse guards and hunting up the enemy — left no 
time for any such trivial occupations as mere letter-writing. 
She had heard from Eustace oftener, letters of great 
length, entertaining withal, but such as all the world might 
read. But this in no wise troubled her now, for she under- 
stood. Eustace was far too cautious to intrust anything that 
the world might not read to so uncertain a means of transit 
as was then at his disposal. Express riders might be cut 
off by the enemy in the course of their precarious and some- 
times extremely perilous mission ; occasionally were cut off. 

A few days now and she would see him again, would hear 
his voice, would live in the delight of his presence daily as 
before. Ah, but— how was it to end ? The old thought, 
put far away into the background during the dull heartache 
of their separation, came to the fore now. They would go 
back to their home, to Anta's Kloof, and things would be 
as before. Ah, but would they ? There lay the sting. 
Never — a thousand times never. Things could never be as 
they were. For now that her love for the one had been 
awakened, what had she left for the other ? Not even the 
kindly toleration of companionship which she had up till 
then mistaken for love. A sentiment perilously akin to 
aversion had now taken the place of this. Alas and alas ! 
How was it to end ? 

The return of the Kaffrarian Rangers became a matter of 
daily expectation. Preparations were made for their recep- 
tion, including a banquet on a large scale. Still they came 
not. 

Then an ugly report got wind in Komgha— whispered at 
first. A disaster had befallen. Several men belonging to 
the expected corps had been killed. They had constituted 
a patrol, report said— then a shooting party straying from 
the main body. Anyway, they had been cut off by the 
euemy and mas.sacred' to a man. It was only the Moor- 
denaar's Kop * affair over again, people said. 

Later the rumour began to boil down a little. Onlyfoui 

* See note on p. 8i. 



146 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



men had come to grief as reported. They had left the main 
body to get up a bushbuck hunt on the banks of the 
Bashi, They must have crossed the river tor some reason 
or other, probably in pursuance of their hunt ; anyhow, 
they were surprised by the Kafirs and killed. And the 
missing men were Hoste, Payne, Carhayes, and Eustace 
Milne. 

The-rumour spread like wildfire. The excitement became 
prodigious, ivlen stood in eager knots at the street corners, 
at the bars, everywhere, each trying to appear as if he 
knew more about it than his fellows ; each claiming to be a 
greater authority upon the probabilities or improbabilities 
of the case than all the rest put together. But all were 
agreed on one point — that the errand of breaking the news 
to those most concerned was the duty of anybody but them- 
selves. And three of the unfortunate men were married ; 
two of their wives — now widows, alas — being actually resi- 
dent in the place, within a stone's throw, in fact. It was 
further agreed that, by whoever eventually performed, the 
longer this duty could be deferred the better. Further in- 
formation might arrive any moment. It would be as well 
to wait. 

For once, public opinion was sound in its judgment. 
Further information did arrive, this time authentic, and it 
had the effect of boiling down rumour considerably — in 
fact, by one- half. The four men had set out and crossed 
the Bashi into the Bomvana country, as at first stated. They 
had been attacked by the Kafirs in overwhelming numbers, 
and after a terrible running fight Hoste and Payne had 
escaped. Their horses had been mortally wounded and 
themselves forced to lie hidden among the thick bush and 
krantzes along the Bashi River for two nights and a day, 
when they were found in a half-starved condition by a 
strong patrol of the Rangers, wliich had turned back to 
search for them. The other two men were missing, and 
from the report of the survivors no hope could be enter- 
tained of their escape. In fact, their fate was placed beyond 
the shadow of a doubt, for the Rangers had proceeded 
straight to the scene of the conflict, and though they did 
not discover the bodies— which the jackals and other wild 
animals might have accounted for meanwhile— they found 
the spots, not very far apart, where both men had been 
slain, and in or near the great patches of dried-up blood 



A DARK RUMOUR IN KOMGHA. 



147 



were fragments ot the unfortunate men's clothing and other 
articles, including a new and patent kind of spur known to 
have belonged to Milne. 

This was better. The killed had been reduced from four 
to two, the number of widows from three to one. Still, it 
was sufficiently terrible. Both men had lived in their 
midst — one for many years, the other for a shorter time — 
and were more or less well-known to all. This time the 
news was genuine, for three of the Rangers themselves had 
ridden in with all particulars. The sensation created was 
tremendous. Everybody had something to say. 

" Tell you what it is, boys," a weather-beaten, grizzled 
old farmer was saying — haranguing a gathering of idlers on 
the stoep of the hotel. " There's always something of that 
sort happens every war. Fellers get so darn careless. 
They think because Jack Kafir funks sixty men he's in just as 
big a funk of six. But he ain't. They reckon, too, that 
because they can't see no Kafirs that there ain't no Kafirs to 
see. Jest as if they weren't bein' watched every blessed 
step they take. No, if you go out in a big party to find 
Jack Kafir you won't find him, but if you go out in a small 
one, he'll be dead sure to find you. You may jest bet 
drinks all round on that. Hey ? Did you say you'd take 
me. Bill ? " broke off the old fellow with a twinkle in his 
eye as he caught that of a crony in the group. 

" Haw, haw ! No, I didn't, but I will though. Put a 
name to it, old Baas." 

" Well, I'll call it ' French.' Three star for choice." 

The liquid was duly brought and the old fellow, having 
disposed of two-thirds at a gulp, resumed his disquisition. 

" It's this way," he went on. ** I'm as certain of it as if 
I'd seen it. Them oxen were nothin' more or less than a 
trap. The Kafirs had been watching the poor devils all 
along and jest sent the oxen as a bait to draw them across 
the river. It's jest what might have been expected, but I'm 
surprised they hadn't more sense than to be took so easily. 
Hoste and Payne especially — not being a couple of 
Britishers " 

" Here, I say, governor — stow all that for a yarn," 
growled one of a brace of fresh-faced young Police troop- 
ers, who were consuming a modest " split " at a table and 
resented what they thought was an imputation. 

" Well, I don't mean no offence," returned the old fellow 



'TWEEN SXOW AND FIRE. 



testily. "I only mean that Britishers ain't got the experi- 
ence us Colonial chaps has, and '11 go runnin' their heads 
into a trap where we should know better." 

" All the more credit to their pluck," interrupted another 
patriotically disposed individual. 

" Oh, shut up, Smith. Who the deuce is saying anything 
against their pluck ? " cried someone else. 

" Well, I'm sure I wasn't," went on the original speaker. 
" Tom Carhayes, now, is as plucky a fellow as ever lived — 
was, rather — and " 

"You don't call Tom Carhayes a Britisher, do you ?" 
objected another man. 

" Yes, I do. At least, perhaps not altogether. He's been 
here a good number of years now and got into our ways. 
Still, I remember when he first came out. And Milne only 
came out the other day." 

"Well, Milne's 'blanket friends' have paid him off in a 
coin he didn't bargain for. Wonder what he thinks of 'em 
now — if he can think," said someone, with an iU-natured 
sneer — for Eustace, like most men with any character in 
them, was not beloved by everybody. 

" Ah, poor chap," went on the old man. " Milne was 
rather too fond of the Kafirs and Carhayes was a sight too 
much down on 'em. And now the Kafirs have done for 
them both, without fear, favour, or " 

" Tsh — tsh — tsh ! Shut tip, man alive, shut up !" 

This was said in a low, warning whisper, and the speaker's 
sleeve was violently plucked. 

" Eh ? What's the row ? " he asked, turning in amaze- 
ment. 

" Why, that's her ! " was the reply, more earnest than 
grammatical. 

" Her ? Who ? " 

" His wife, of course." 

A Cape cart was driving by, containing two ladies and 
two young girls. Of the former one was Mrs. Hoste, the 
other Eansvvyth. As they passed quite close to the speakers, 
Eanswyth turned her head with a bow and a smile to some- 
one standing in front of the hotel. A dead, awkward silence 
fell upon the group of talkers. 

"I say. She didn't hear, did she?" stage-whispered 
the old man eagerly, when the trap had gone by. 

" She didn't look much as though she had — poor thing ! " 



A DARK RUMOUR IN KOMGHA. 



149 



said another whom the serene, radiant happiness shining in 
that sweet face had not escaped. 

" Poor thing, indeed," was the reply, " She ought to be 
told, though. But I wouldn't be the man to do it, no — not 
for fifty pounds. Why, they say she can hardly eat or sleep 
since she heard Tom Carhayes was coming back, she's so 
pleased. And now, poor Tom — where is he ? Lying out 
there hacked into Kafir mince-meat." And the speaker, 
jerking his hand in the direction of the Transkei, stalked 
solemnly down the steps of the stoep^ heaving a prodigious 
sigh. 



CHAPTER XXV. 



• "the curse has come upon me. . . ." 

The party in the Cape cart were returning from a drive 
out to Draaibosch, a roadside inn and canteen some ten or 
a dozen miles along the King Williamstown road. Two 
troops of Horse, one of them Brathwaite's, were encamped 
there the night before on their way homeward, and a goodly 
collection of their friends and well-wishers had driven or 
ridden over to see them start. 

It was a lovely day, and the scene had been lively enough 
as the combined troops — numbering upwards of two hun- 
dred horsemen, bronzed and war-worn, but " fit " and in the 
highest of spirits, had struck their camp and filed off upon 
their homeward way, cheering and being cheered enthusi- 
astically by the lines of spectators. An enthusiasm, how- 
ever, in no wise shared by groups of Hlambi and Gaika 
Kafirs from Ndimba's or Sandili's locations, who, in all the 
savagery of their red paint and blankets, hung around the 
door of the cSnteen with scowling sneers upon their faces, 
the while bandying among themselves many a deep-toned 
remark not exactly expressive of amity or affection towards 
their white brethren. But for this the latter cared not a 
jot. 

" Hey, Johnny ! " sang out a trooper, holding out a bundle 
of assegais towards one of the aforesaid groups as he rode 
past, "see these? I took 'em from one of Kreli's chaps, 
up yonder. Plugged him through with a couple of bullets 
first." 

" Haw! haw ! " guffawed another. " You fellows had bet- 
ter behave yourselves or we shall be coming to look you up 
next. Tell old Sandili that, with our love. Ta-ta, Johnny. 
So long ! 

It was poor wit, and those at whom it was directed ap- 
preciated it at its proper value. The scowl deepened upon 
that cloud of dark faces, and a mutter of contempt and de- 
fiance rose from more than one throat. Yet in the bottom 

ISO 



THE CURSE HAS COME UPON ME." 151 

of their hearts the savages entertained a sufficiently whole- 
some respect for those hardened, war-worn sharpshooters. 

Handkerchiefs waved and hats were flourished in the air, 
and amid uproarious and deafening cheers the mounted 
corps paced forth, Brathwaite's Horse leading. And over 
and above the clamour and tumult of the voices and the 
shouting, Jack Armitage's bugle might be heard, wildly 
emitting a shrill and discordant melody, which common con- 
sent, amid roars of laughter, pronounced to be a cross be- 
tween the National Anthem and *' Vat you goed an trek 
F err da."* 

Into the fun and frolic of the occasion Eanswyth entered 
with zest. She had laughed until she neady cried over the 
hundred-and-one comic little incidents inseparable from 
this scene of universal jollity. Even the boldest flights of 
wit attempted during the multifold and promiscuous good- 
byes interchanged had moved her mirth. But it was the 
light, effervescing, uncontrollable laughter of the heart. 

"The genial, careless jests of the light-hearted crowd, the 
good humour on every face, found its echo in her. In the 
unclouded blue of the heavens, the golden sunlit air, there 
seemed a vibrating chord of joyous melody, a poetry 
in the sweeping plains, even in the red lines of ochre- 
smeared savages filing along the narrow tracks leading to 
or from their respective locations. Her heart sang within 
her as once more the horses' heads were turned homeward. 
Any hour now might bring him. Why, by the time they 
reached home he might have arrived, or at any rate an ex- 
press hurried on in advance to announce the arrival of the 
corps by nightfall. ^ 

"Rangers arrived?" repeated in reply to Mrs. Hoste s 
eager question, one of two acquaintances whom they met 
upon the road when within a mile of the village. "N — no, 
not yet. They can't be far off, though. Three or four of 
their men have come in — Shelton among them." 

" Oh, thanks, so much ! " cried both the ladies, apparently 
equally eager. " We had better get on as soon as we can. 
Good-day." , / 

In the fullness of her joy, the clouded expression and, 
hesitating speech accompanying the information had quite 
escaped Eanswyth— nor had it struck her friend either. 
Then, laughing and chatting in the highest of spirits, they 
*A popular old Boer song. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



had driven past the conversing groups upon the stoep of the 
hotel, as we have seen. 

The trap had been outspanned, and the horses turned 
loose into the veldt. The household were about to sit down 
to dinner. Suddenly the doorway was darkened and a 
head was thrust in— a black and dusty head, surmounted by 
the remnant of a ragged hat. 

" Mocrow, missis ! " said the owner of this get-up hold- 
ing out a scrap of paper folded into a note. Mrs Hoste 
opened it carelessly— then a sort of gasp escaped her, and 
her face grew white. 
"Where— where is your Baas! " she stammered. 
" La pa," replied the native boy, pointing down the street. 
Flurried, and hardly knowing what she was about, Mrs. 
Hoste started to follow the messenger. Eanswyth had gone 
to her room to remove her hat, fortunately. 

" Oh, Mr. Shelton— is it true ? " she cried breathlessly, 
coming right upon the sender of the missive, who was wait- 
mg at no great distance from the house. " Is it really true ? 
Can It be ? What awful news ! Oh, it will kill her ' What 
shall we do ? " 

" Try and be calm, Mrs. Hoste," said Shelton gravely. 
There is no doubt about its truth, I am sorry to say. It 
is fortunate you had not heard the first report of the affair .- 
which arrived here. All four of them were rumoured 
killed, I'm told. But— No, don't be alarmed," he added, 
hastily interrupting an impending outburst. " Your hus- 
band is quite safe, and will be here this evening. But poor 
Tom is killed— not a doubt about it— Milne too. And 
now, will you break it to Mrs. Carhayes ? It must be done^ 
you know. She may hear it by accident any moment ; the 
whole place is talking about it, and just think what a shock 
that will be." 
" Oh, I can't. Don't ask me. It will kill her." 
"But, my dear lady, it musf be done," urged Shelton. 
" It is a most painful and heart-breaking necessity— but it is 
a necessity," 

" Come and help me through with it, Mr. Shelton," pleaded 
Mrs. Hoste piteously, " I shall never manage it alone." 

Shelton was in a quandary. He knew Eanswyth fairly 
well, but he was by nature a retiring man, a trifle shv even, 
and to find himself saddled with so delicate and pa'inful a 
task as the breaking of this news to her, was simply appall- 



" TJ/E CUA'SE JfAS COME UPON iME. . . ." 153 

ing. He was a well-to-do man, with a wife and family of 
his own, yet it is to be feared that during the three dozen 
paces which it took them to reach the front door, he almost 
wished he could change places with poor Tom Carhayes, 

He wished so altogether as they gained the stoep. For 
in the doorway stood a tall figure — erect, rigid as a post — 
with face of a ghastly white, lips livid and trembling. 

" What does this mean ? " gasped Eanswyth. " What ' bad 
news * is it ? Please tell me. I can bear it," 

She was holding out a scrap of pencilled paper, Shelton's 
open note, which Mrs. Hoste, in her flurry and horror, had 
dropped as she went out. It only contained a couple of 
lines : 

Dear Mrs. Hoste : 

There is very bad news to teli, which regards Mrs. Carhayes. Please^ 
follow the bearer at once. 

Yours truly, 

Henry Shelton. 

" Quick — what is it — the ' bad news ' ? I can bear it — 
Quick — you are killing me," gasped Eanswyth, speaking 
now in a dry whisper. 

One look at his accomplice convinced Shelton that he 
would have to take the whole matter into his own hands. 

" Try and be brave, Mrs. Carhayes," he said gravely. " It 
concerns your husband." 

" Is he — is he — is it the worst ! " she managed to get 
out. 

" It is the worst," he answered simply, deeming it best 
to get it over as soon as possible. 

For a minute he seemed to have reason to congratulate 
himself on this idea. The rigid stony horror depicted on 
her features relaxed, giving way to a dazed, bewildered ex- 
pression, as though she had borne the first brunt of the 
shock, and was calming down. 

"Tell me!" she gasped at length. "How was it> 
When ? Where ? " 

" It was across the Bashi. They were cut off by the Kafirs, 
and killed." 

"'They'? Who— who else ? " 

Shelton wished the friendly earth would open beneath his 
feet then and there. 

" Mrs. Carhayes, pray be calm," he said unsteadily, 



154 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



" You have heard the worst, remember — the worst, but not 
all. You cousin shared poor Tom's fate." 
" Eustace ? " 

The word was framed, rather than uttered, by those livid 
and bloodless lips. Yet the listener caught it and bent his 
head in assent. 

She. did not cry out ; she did not swoon. Yet those who 
beheld her almost wished she had done both — anything 
rather than take the blow as she was doing. She stood 
there in the doorway — her tall form seeming to tower above 
them— her large eyes sparkling forth from her livid and 
bloodless countenance — and the awful and set expression of 
despair imprinted therein was such as the two who witnessed 
it prayed they might never behold on human countenance 
again. 

She had heard the worst — the worst, but not all — her in- 
formant had said. Had she? The mockery of it ! The 
first news was terrible ; the second — death ; black, hopeless, 
living death. Had heard the worst ! Ah, the mockery 
of it ! And as these reflections sank into her dazed 
brain — driven in, as it were, one after another by the dull 
blows of a hammer, her lips even shaped the ghost of a 
smile. Ah, the irony of it ! 

Still she did not faint. She stood there in the doorway, 
curdling the very heart's blood of the lookers on with 
that dreadful shadow of a smile. Then, without a word, 
she turned and walked to her room. 

"Oh ! I must go to her!" cried Mrs. Hoste eagerly. 
"Oh, this is too fearful." 

"If you take my advice — it's better not ! Not at present, 
at any rate," answered Shelton. " Leave her to get over 
the first shock alone. And what a shock it is. Bereaved 
of husband and cousin at one stroke. And the cousin was 
almost like a brother, wasn't he ? " 

'* Yes," and the recollection of her recent suspicions 
swept in with a rush upon the speaker's mind, deepening 
her flurry and distress, " Yes. That is — I mean — Yes, I 
believe she was very fond of him. But how bravely she 
took it." 

" Rather too bravely," answered the other with a grave 
shake of the head. " I only hope the strain may not be too 
much for her — affect her brain, I mean. Mrs. Carhayes has 
more than the average share of strong mindedness, yet she 



" ri/£ CURSE HAS COME UPON ME. . . ." 155 



strikes me as being a woman of extraordinarily strong 
feeling. The shock must have been frightful, and 
although she didn't scream or faint, the expression of 
her face was one that I devoutly hope never to see upon 
any face again. And now, good-bye for the present. I'll 
call around later and hear how she's getting on. Poor 
thing ! " 

The sun of her life had set — had gone down into black 
night— yet the warm rays of the summer sunshine glanced 
through the open window of her room, glowing down upon 
the wide t'^M outside and upon the distant sparkle of 
the blue sea. Never again would laughter issue from those 
lips— yet the sound of light-hearted chat and peals of 
mirth was ever and anon borne from without. The dron- 
ing hum of insects in the afternoon air— the clink of horsf 
hoofs, the deep-toned conversation of natives passing neir 
the window — all these familiar sounds of everyday life 
found a faint and far-away echo in her benumbed brain. 
What though one heart was broken— the world went on 
just the same. 

Stay ! Was it but a few minutes ago that she passed 
out through that door trilling the cheerful fragments of the 
airiest of songs— but a few minutes since she picked up 
that fatal scrap of paper, and then stood face to face with 
those who brought her news which had laid her lite in 
ruins ! Only a few minutes ! Why, it seemed years — cen- 
turies— ceons. Was it a former state of existence that upon 
which she now looked back as across a great and yawning 
gulf ? Was she now dead — and was this the place of tor- 
ment ? The fire that burneth forever and ever ! How 
should she quench the fire in her heart and brain ? 

There was a very stoniness about her grief as if the blow 
had petrified her. She did not fling herself upon the couch 
in her agony of despair. No tears did she shed— better if 
she had. For long after she had gained her room and 
locked herself in alone she stood— stood upright— and 
finally when she sought a chair it was mechanically, as with 
the movement of a sleep walker. Her heart was broken— 
her life was ended. He had gone from her — it only re- 
mained for her to go to him. 

And then, darting in across her tortured brain, in fiery 
characters, came the recollection of his own words— spoken 



156 'TWEEN SNOIV AND FIRE. 

that first and last blissful morning at Anta's Kloof. *' If 
we are doing wrong through love for each other we shall 
have to expiate it at some future time. We shall be made 
to suffer through each other," and to this she had responded 
" Amen." How soon had those words come true. The 
judgment had fallen. He had gone from her, but she could 
not go to him. Their love, unlawful in this world, could 
never be ratified in another. And then, indeed, there fell 
upon her the gloom of outer darkness. There was no - 
hope. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 



" AND THE summer's NIGHT IS A WINTER'S DAY." 

For Eanswyth Carhayes the sun of life had indeed set. 

The first numbing shock of ' the fearful news over," a 
period of even greater agony supervened. He who had 
succeeded in setting free the wholly unsuspected volcanic 
fires of her strong and passionate nature— him, her first and 
only love— she would never see again in life. If she had 
sinned in yielding to a love that was unlawful, surely she 
was expiating it now. The punishment seemed greater 
than she could bear. 

She made no outcry— no wild demonstrations of grief. 
Her sorrow was too real, too sacred, for any such common- 
place manifestations. But when she emerged from her first 
retirement, it was as a walking ghost. There was some- 
thing about that strained and unnatural calm, something 
which overawed those who saw it. She was as one walk- 
mg outside the world and its incidents. They feared for 
her brain. 

As the days slipped by, people wondered. It seemed 
strange that poor Tom Carhayes should have the faculty of 
inspiring such intense affection in anybody. No one sus- 
pected anything more than the most ordinary of easy-going 
attachment to exist between him and his wife, yet that the 
latter was now a broken-hearted woman was but too sadly 
obvious. Well, there must have been far more in the poor 
fellow than he had generally been credited with, said the 
popular voice, and after all, those outside are net of 
necessity the best judges as to the precise relationship 
existing between two people. So sympathy for Eanswyth 
was widespread and unfeigned. 

Yet amid all her heart-torture, all her aching and hope- 
less sorrow, poor Tom's fate hardly obtruded itself. In 
fact, had she been capable of a thorough and candid self- 
analysis she would have been forced to admit that it was 
rather a matter for gratulation than otherwise, for under 

«37 



'TWEEN :;N0W AMD FIRE. 



cover of it she was enabled to inOalge her heart-broken 
grief to the uttermost. Apart from this, horrible as it may 
seem, her predominating feeling toward her dead husband 
was that of intense bitterness and resentment. He it was 
who had led the others into peril. That aggressive foul- 
hardiness of his, which had caused her many and many a 
long hour of uneasiness and apprehension, had betrayed 
hinTto a barbarous death, and with it that other. The cruel 
irony of it, too, would burst upon her. He had avenged 
himself in his very death— had broken her heart. 

Had Tom Carhayes been the only one to fall, it is proba- 
ble that Eanswyth would have mourned him with genuine — 
we do not say with durable— regret. It is possible that she 
might have been afflicted with acute remorse at the part 
she had played. But now all thoughts of any such thing 
faded completely from her mind, obliterated by the one 
overwhelming, stunning stroke which had left her life in 
shadow until it should end. 

Then the Rangers had returned, and from the two sur- 
viving actors in the terrible tragedy — Payne and Hoste, to 
V7it_she learned the full particulars. It was even as she 
had suspected — Tom's rashness from first to last. The 
insane idea of bushbuck hunting in a small party in an 
enemy's country, then venturing across the river right into 
what was nothing more nor less than a not very cunningly 
baited trap— all was due to his truculent foolhardiness. 
But Eustace, knowing that her very life was bound up in 
his— how could he have allowed himself to be so easily led 
away ? And this was the bitterest side of it. 

To the philosophic and somewhat cynical Payne this 
interview was an uncomfortable one, while Hoste subse- 
quently pronounced it to be the most trying thing he had 
ever gone through in his life. 

" Is there absolutely no hope ? " Eanswyth had said, in a 
hard, forced voice. 

The two men looked at each other. 
"Absolutely none, Mrs. Carhayes," said Payne. "It 
would be sham kindness to tell you anything different. 
Escape was an impossibility, you see. Both their horses 
were killed and they themselves were surrounded. Hoste 
and I only got through by the skin of our teeth. If our 
horses had 'gone under' earlier it would have been all 
up with us, too." 



" SUMMER 'S NIGHT IS A WINTER 'S DA Y." 159 



" But the — but they were not found, were they ? They 
may have been taken prisoners." 

Again the two men looked at each other. Neither liked 
to give utterance to what was passing through his mind. 
Better a hundredfold the unfortunate men were dead and at 
rest than helpless captives in the hands of exasperated and 
merciless savages. 

" Kafirs never do take prisoners," said Payne after a 
pause. " At least, never in the heat and excitement of 
battle. And it is not likely that Carhayes or Milne would 
give them a chance, poor chaps." 

" You mean ? " 

" They would fight hard to the bitter end— would sell 
their lives dearly. I am afraid you must face the worst. I 
wish I could say otherwise, but I can't. Eh, Hoste ? " 

The latter nodded. He had very willingly allowed the 
other to do all the talking. Then, as all things come to an 
end sooner or later— even Wigmore Street — so eventually 
did this trying interview. 

" I say, George. That just was a bad quarter of an hour," 
said Hoste, as the two companions-in-arras found themselves 
once more in their favourite element — the open air, to wit. 
" I don't want to go through it again many times in a life- 
time. If ever there was ' broken heart,' writ large in any 
woman's face, it is on that of poor Mrs, Carhayes. I 
believe she'll never get over it." 

Payne, who had shown himself far from unfeeling during 
the above-mentioned trying interview, regarded this remark 
as a direct challenge to the ingrained cynicism of his 
nature. 

" You don't, eh ? " he replied. " Well, I don't want to 
seem brutal, Hoste, but I predict she'll be patching up that 
same ' broken heart ' in most effective style at some other 
fellow's expense, before the regulation two years are over. 
They all do it. Lend us your ' bacco pouch.' " 

Hoste said nothing. But for that little corner of the 
curtain of her suspicions which his wife had lifted on the 
first night of Eanswyth's arrival, he might have been three 
parts inclined to agree with his friend. As things stood, he 
wasn't. 

But could they at that moment have seen the subject of 
their conversation, it is possible that even the shelly and 
cynical Payne might have felt shaken in his so glibly ex- 



,6o 'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 

... T„ crclusion of her room she sat, 

Stir and wh c\"er recent visitors'had just given he. 
Ard pv;r this last sorry relic she was pounng out her whole 
soul— sorrowing as one who had no hope. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 



THE SHIELD OF HER LOVE. 

When Eustace Milne fell from his saddle to the earth, 
the savage who had stabbed him, and who was about to 
follow up the blow, started back with a loud shout of 
astonishment and dismay. 

It arrested the others. They paused as they stood. It 
arrested assegai blades quivering to bury themselves in the 
fallen man's body. It arrested murderous knob-kernes 
whistling in the air ready to descend and crash out the 
fallen man's brains. They stood, those maddened, blood- 
thirsty barbarians, paralyzed, petrified, as they took up with 
one voice their compatriot's dismayed shout. 

''Auf Umtagati ! Marm/"* 

They crowded round the prostrate body, but none would 
touch it The blow had been dealt hard and fair, by a 
hand which had dealt more than one such blow before, and 
always with deadly effect. Yet the wound did not bleed. 

The dealer of it stood, contemplating his assegai, with 
looks of amazement, of alarm, Instead of driving its great 
broad blade up to the hilt in the yielding body of his victiin, 
and feeling the warm blood gush forth upon his hand, the 
point had encountered something hard, with the effect of 
administering quite a shock to wrist and arm, so great was 
the force of the blow and the resistance. And the point of 
the spear blade had snapped off by at least an inch. 

" Witchcraft ! " they cried again. " He is dead, and 
yet he does not bleed. Mawo 

He was Not a movement stirred his limbs ; not a breath 
heaved his chest ever so faintly. The lips, slightly parted, 
were as livid as the features. . . 

For a few moments they stood contemplating their vic- 
tim in speechless amazement. Then one, more daring or 
less credulous than his fellows, reached forward as if about 

* Ha ! Witchcraft ! A wonder ! 
i6t 



l62 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



to plunge his assegai into the motionless body. The rest 
hung breathlessly watching the result of the experiment. 
But before it could be carried into effect the deep tones of 
a peremptory voice suspended the uplifted weapon. Every 
head turned, and the circle parted to make way for the new 
arrival. 

He was a tall, muscular Kafir, as straight as a dart, and 
carried his head with an air of command which, with the 
marked deference shown him, bespoke him a man of con- 
siderable rank. His bronzed and sinewy proportions were 
plentifully adorned with fantastic ornaments of beadwork 
and cow-tails, and he wore a headpiece of monkey skin 
surmounted by the long waving plumes of the blue crane. 

Without a word he advanced, and, bending over the pros- 
trate body, scrutinized the dead man's features. A slight 
start and exclamation of astonishment escaped him, then, 
recovering himself, he carefully examined, without touching 
it, the place where the assegai had struck. There it was, 
visible to all, a clean cut in the cord jacket — yet no sign of 
blood. 

" Au ! He does not bleed ! He does not bleed ! " ejac- 
ulated the crowd again. 

By this time the numbers of the latter had augmented. 
Having given up the chase of the other two whites, or leav- 
ing it to their advance guards, the Kafirs swarmed back 
by twos and threes to where the gathering crowd showed 
that soraetlung unusual was going on. 

The chief drew a knife from his girdle and bent once 
more over the prostrate form. But his purpose was not at 
present a bloodthirsty one, for he only held the broad blade 
across the livid lips. Then raising it he scrutinized it 
keenly. The bright steel was ever so slightly dimmed. 

" Ha ! " he exclaimed in a tone of satisfaction, rising to 
his feet after repeating the operation. Then he issued his 
orders, with the result that poor Eustace was lifted on to a 
stout blanket, and four men, advancing, shouldered a corner 
apiece and thus, with their living burden in their midst, the 
whole band moved away down the kloof. 

After about two hours' marching, during which the coun- 
try grew wilder and more wooded, they halted at a water- 
hole — one of a chain of several in the otherwise dried up 
bed of a stream. Eustace was gently lowered to the ground, 
and, squatting around him, his bearers began to watch him 



THE SHIELD OF HER LOVE. 



with a great and gathering curiosity, for he was beginning 
to show signs of returning life. 

At a rapid signal from the chief, water was fetched from 
the hole and his brow and face bathed. A tremor ran 
through his frame and a sigh escaped him. Then he opened 
his eyes. 

*^Hau!" exclaimed the Kafirs, bending eagerly for- 
ward. 

At sight of the ring of dark faces gazing upon him in the 
gathering dusk, Eustace raised his head with a slight start. 
Then, as recollection returned to him, he sank wearily 
back. His head was aching, too, as if it would split. He 
would be fortunate if the blow which had deprived him of 
consciousness did not end in concussion of the brain. 

With the return of consciousness came a feeling of in- 
tense gratification that he was still alive. This may seem a 
superfluous statement, yet not. Many a man waking to 
the consciousness that he was a helpless captive in the 
power of fierce and ruthless barbarians, has prayed with all 
his soul for the mercy of a swift and certain death, and has 
done so vith a grim and terrible earnestness. Not so, how- 
ever, Eustace Milne. He had something to live for now. 
While there was life there was hope. He was not going to 
throw away a single chance. 

To this end, then, he lay perfectly still, closing his eyes 
again, for he wanted to think, to clear his terribly aching 
and beclouded brain. And while thus lying, seemingly un- 
conscious, his ears caught the subdued hum of his captors' 
conversation — caught the whispered burden of their super- 
stitious misgivings, and he resolved to turn them to account. 

"It is a powerful 'charm,'" one of them was saying. 
" We ought to find it — to take it away from him." 

" We had better not meddle with it," was the reply. 
" Vyait and see. It may not be too powerful for Ngcenika, 
or it may. We shall see." 

" Ha ! Ngcenika — the great prophetess. Ewa, ewa* ! " 
exclaimed several. 

A powerful charm? Ngcenika, the prophetess)' What 
did they mean. Then it dawned upon him as in a flash. 
The uplifted assegai, the great leaping barbarian, grinning 
in bloodthirsty glee as the weapon quivered in his sinewy 



* Yes— jrM. 



164 



'TWEEN" SNOW AND FIRE. 



grasp : then the blow— straight at his heart. It all came 

back to him now. , , j , ^ 

Yet how had he escaped? The stroke had been straight, 
strong, and surely directed. He had felt the contact. 
Checking an impulse to raise his hand to his heart, he ex- 
panded his chest ever so slightly. No sharp, pricking pang, 
as of a stab or cut. He was unwounded. But how ? 

And then as the truth burst upon him, such a thrill ot 
new-born hope radiated throughout his being that he could 
hardly refrain from leaping to his feet then and there. The 
silver box— Eanswyth's gift at parting— this was what had 
interposed between him and certain death ! The silver box 
—with its contents, the representation of that sweet face 
those last lines, tear stained, "warm from her hand and 
heart," as she herself had put it— this was what had turned 
the deadly stroke which should have cleft his heart in twam. 

What an omen ! , , « 1 ■> 

A. "charm," they had called it— a powerful charm. 
Ha ' that must be his cue. Would it prove too potent for 
Ngcenika ? they had coniectured. The name was familiar 
to him as owned by Kreli's principal witch-doctress, a shad- 
owy personage withal, and known to few, if any, of the whites, 
and therefore credited with powers above the average. Cer- 
tain it was that her influence at that time was great 

More than ever now had he his cue, for he could guess 
his destination. They were taking him to the hiding place 
of the Paramount Chief, and with the thorough knowledge 
he possessed of his captors, the chance of some opportunity 
presenting itself seemed a fairly good one. But, above all, 
he must keep up his character for invulnerability. Neither 
peril nor pain must wring from him the faintest indication 
of weakness. . . 

In furtherance of this idea— the racking, splitting pain in 
his head notwithstanding— he sat up and looked deliberately 
nroimd as though just awakening from an ordinary sleep, 
lie noticed a start run round the circle of swarthy, won- 
dering countenances. As he did so, his glance fell upon 
one that was familiar to him. , <• . r 

" Hau, Ixeshane ! " cried its owner, stepping forth trom 
the circle. " You have come a long way to visit us ! " and 
the ghost of a mocking smile lurked round Ihe speakers 
mouth. 

" That is so, Hlangani. Here— tell one of them to dip 



THE SHIET.D OF HER LOVE. 



that half-full of water at the hole." He had drawn a flask 
from his pocket and held out the metal cup. One of the 
Kafirs took it and proceeded to execute his request without 
a word. Then, adding some spirit to the water, he drank it 
off, and half-filling the cup again— with raw brandy— he 
handed it to tha chief. Hlangani drained it at a single gulp. 

SiUngiU ! " * he said briefly, then stood waiting as if 
to see what the other would say next. Calmly Eustace re- 
turned the flask to his pocket. But he said nothing. 

After about an hour's halt the band arose, and, gathering 
up their weapons and such scanty impedimenta as they pos- 
sessed, the Kafirs prepared to start. 

" Can you walk, Ixeshane ? " said the chief. 

'* Certainly," was the reply. His head was splitting and 
it was all he could do to keep on his feet at all. Still his 
new character must be kept up, and the night air was cool 
and invigorating. But jast as he was about to step forth 
with the others, his arms were suddenly forced behind him 
and quickly and securely bound. There was no time for 
resistance, even had he entertained the idea of offering any, 

which he had not. „ ^ ^ . • .1 ^ 

" Am I a fool, Hlangani ? " he said. Do I imagine that 
I unarmed and alone, can escape from about two hundred 
armed warriors, think you ? Why, then, this precaution ? 

" It is night," replied the chief laconically. 

It was night, but it was bright moonhght. 1 he Kafirs 
were marching in no particular order, very much at ease in 
fact, and as he walked, surrounded by a strong body guard, 
he could form some idea of the strength of the band. This 
numbered at least a couple of hundred, he estimated ; but 
the full strength of the party which had so disastrously sur- 
prised them must have consisted of nearly iwice that num- 
ber Then he questioned them concerning the fate of his 
comrades. For answer they grinned significantly, going 
through a pantomimic form of slaying a prostrate enemy 
with assegais. 

" All killed? " said Eustace, incredulously. 

" No Only the one who was with you," was the answer. 
" But the other two will be dead by this time. Their horses 
were used up, and our people are sure to have overtaken 
them long before they got to the river. Au umlungul 



* Good. 



i66 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



went on the speaker. " Were you all mad, you four poor 
whites, that you thought to come into the country of the 
Great Chief, Sarili, the Chief Paramount, and eat the cattle 
of his children ? " 

"But this is not his country. It belongs to Moni, the 
chief of the Amabomvane." 

" Not- his country. Ha ! " echoed the listeners, wagging 
their heads in disdain. "Not his country! The white 
man's 'charm' may be potent, but it has rendered him 
mad." 

" Ho, Sarili — father ! " chorused the warriors, launching 
out into an impromptu song in honour of the might and 
virtues of their chief. " Sarili— lord ! The Great, Great 
One ! The deadly snake ! The mighty buffalo bull, scat- 
tering the enemy's hosts with the thunder of his charge ! 
The fierce tiger, lying in wait to spring ! Give us thy white 
enemies that we may devour them alive. Ha — ah ! " 

The last ejaculation was thundered out in a prolonged, 
unanimous roar, and inspired by the fierce rhythm of the 
chant, the warriors with one accord formed up into columns, 
and the dark serried ranks, marching through the night, 
swelling the wild war-song, beating time with sticks, the 
quivering rattle of assegai hafts mingling with the thun- 
derous tread of hundreds of feet, and the gleam of the 
moonlight upon weapons and rolling eyeballs, went to form 
a picture of indescribable grandeur and awe. 

Again and again surged forth the weird rhythm : 

Ho, Sarili, son of Hintza ! 
Great Chief of ihe House of Gcaleka ! 
Great Father of the children of Xosa ! 
Strong lion, devourer of the whites ! 
Great serpent, striking dead thine eneniies ! 
Give us thy white enemies that we may hew them into small pieces. 

Ha— ah ! 

Great Chief ! wliose kraals overflow with fatness ! 

Great Chief 1 whose cornfields wave to feed a people ! 

Warrior of warriors, whom weapons surround like the uces of a forest 1 

We return to thee drunk with the blood of thine enemies. 

Ha— ha— ha ! " 

With each wild roar, shouted in unison at the end of each 
of these impromptu strophes, the barbarians immediately 
surrounding him would turn to Eustace and flash their 
blades in his face, brandishing tlieir weapons in i)aniomiraic 
representation of carving him to pieces. This to one less 



THE SHIELD OF HER LOVE. 



167 



versed in their habits and character would have been to the 
last degree terrifying, bound and at their mercy as he was. 
But it inspired in him but little alarm. They were merely 
letting off steam. Whatever his fate might eventually be, 
his time had not yet come, and this he knew. 

After a great deal more of this sort of thing, they began 
to get tired of their martial display. The chanting ceased 
and the singers subsided once more into their normal state 
of free and easy jollity. They laughed and poked fun 
among themselves, and let off a good deal of chaff at the 
expense of their prisoner. And this metamorphosis was not 
a little curious. The fierce, ruthltss expression, blazing with 
racial antipathy, depicted on each dark countenance during 
that wild and headlong chase for blood, had disappeared, 
giving way to one that was actually pleasing, the normal 
light-hearted demeanour of a keen-witted and kindly na- 
tured people. Yet the chances of the prisoner's life being 
eventually spared were infinitesimal. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 



THE SILVER BOX. 

Throughout the night their march continued. Towards 
dawn, however, a short halt was made, to no one more wel- 
come than to the captive himself ; the fact being that poor 
Eustace was deadly tired, and, but for the expediency of 
keeping up his character for invulnerability, would have re- 
quested the chief, as a favour, to allow him some rest before 
then. As it was, however, he was glad of the opportunity ; 
but, although he had not tasted food since the previous 
midday, he could not eat. He felt feverish and ill. 

Day was breaking as the party resumed its way. And now the 
features of the country had undergone an entire change. The 
wide, sweeping, mimosa-dotted dales had been left behind — 
had given place to wild forest country, whose rugged gran- 
deur of desolation increased with every step. Great rocks 
overhung each dark ravine, and the trunks of hoary yellow- 
wood trees, from whose gigantic and spreading limbs de- 
pended lichens and monkey ropes, showed through the cool 
semi-gloom like the massive columns of cathedral aisles. 
An undergrowth of dense bush hemmed in the narrow, 
winding path they were pursuing, and its tangled depths 
were ever and anon resonant with the piping whistle of 
birds, and the shrill, startled chatter of monkeys swinging 
aloft among the tree-tops, skipping away from bough to 
boagh with marvellous alacrity. Once a sharp hiss was 
heard in front, causing ihe foremost of the party to halt 
abruptly, with a volley of excited ejaculations, as a huge rink- 
haals, lying in the middle of the narrow track, slowly unwound 
his black coils, and, with hood inflated, raised his head in 
the air as if challenging his human foes. But these, by dint 
of shouting and beating the ground with sticks, induced 
him to move off — for, chiefly from motives of superstition, 
Kafirs will not kill a snake if they can possibly help it — and 
the hideous reptile was heard lazily rustling his way through 
the jungle in his retreat. 

1(58 



They had been toiling up the steep, rugged side of a 
ravine. Suddenly an exclamation of astonishment from 
those in front, who had already gained the ridge, brought 
up the rest of the party at redoubled speed. 

" Hau ! Istimde! " * echoed several, as the cause of the 
prevailing astonishment met their eyes. 

The ridge was of some elevation. Beyond the succession 
of forest-clad valleys and rock-crowned divides lay a broad 
expanse of blue sea, and away near the offing stretched a 
long line of dark smoke. Eustace could make out the masts 
and funnel of a large steamer, steering to the eastward. 

And what a sense of contrast did the sight awaken in his 
mind. The vessel was probably one of the Union Com- 
pany's mail steamships, coasting round to Natal. How 
plainly he would conjure up the scene upon her decks, the 
passengers striving to while away the tediousness of their 
floating captivity with chess and draughts— the latter of 
divers kinds — with books and tobacco, with chat and flirta- 
tion ; whereas, here he was, at no very great distance either, 
undergoing, in this savage wilderness, a captivity which was 
terribly real — a prisoner of war among a tribe of sullen and 
partially crushed barbarians, with almost certain death, as a 
sacrifice to their slain compatriots, staring him in the face, 
and a strong probability of that death being a cruel and 
lingering one withal. And the pure rays of the newly risen 
sun shone forth joyously upon that blue surface, and a whiff 
of strong salt air seemed borne in upon them from the bosom 
of the wide, free ocean. 

For some minutes the Kafirs stood, talking, laughmg like 
children as they gazed upon the long, low forrn of the dis- 
tant steamship, concerning which many of their quaint re- 
marks and conjectures would have been amusing enough at 
any other time. And, as if anything was wanting to keep 
him alive to the peril of his position, Hlangani, stepping to 
the prisoner's side, observed : 

" The time has come to blind you, Ixeshane." 
The words were grim enough in all conscience— frightful 
enough to more than justify the start which Eustace could 
not repress, as he turned to the speaker. But a glance was 
enough to reassure him. The chief advanced toward him, 
holding nothing more formidable than a folded handkerchief. 
To the ordeal of being blindfolded Eustace submitted 
without a word. He recognized its force. They were 

* The stcRinw. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Hearing their destination. Even a captive, probably fore- 
doomed to death, was not to be allowed to take mental 
notes of the approaches to the present retreat of the Para- 
mount Chief. Besides, by insuring such ignorance, they 
would render any chance of his possible escape the more 
futile. But as he walked, steered by one of his escort, who 
kept a hand on his shoulder, he concentrated every faculty, 
short of "the sight of which he was temporarily deprived, 
upon observations relating to the lay of the ground. One 
thing he knew. Wherever they might be they were at no 
great distance from the sea coast. That was something. _ 

Suddenly a diversion occurred. A long, loud, peculiar 
cry sounded from some distance in front. It was a signal. 
As it was answered by the returning warriors, once more 
the wild war-song was raised, and being taken up all along 
the line, the forest echoed with the thunderous roar of the 
savage strophe, and the clash of weapons beating time to 
the weird and thrilling chant. For some minutes thus they 
marched ; then by the sound Eustace knew that his escort 
was forming up in martial array around him ; knew more- 
over, from this circumstance, that the forest had come to an 
end. Then the bandage was suddenly removed from his 
eyes. 

The abrupt transition from darkness to light was bewil- 
dering. But he made out that he was standing in front of 
a hut, which his captors were ordering him to enter. In 
the momentary glance which he could obtain he saw that 
other huts were standing around, and beyond the crowd 
of armed men which encompassed him he could descry the 
faces of women and children gazing at him with mingled 
curiosity and wonder. Then, stooping, he crept through the 
low doorway. Two of his guards entered with him, and to 
his unspeakable gratification their first act was to relieve 
him of the reitn which secured his arms. This done, a 
woman appeared bearing a calabash of curdled milk and a 
little reed basket of stamped mealies. 

" Here is food for you, Umliingu," said one of then;. 
** And now you can rest until — until you are wanted. But 
do not go outside," he added, shortly, and with a significant 
grip of his assegai. Then they went out, fastening the 
wicker screen that served as a door behind them, and Eus- 
tace was left alone. 

The interior of the hut was cool, if a trifle grimy, and 



THE SILVER BOX. 



171 



there were rather fewer cockroaches than usual disporting 
themselves among the domed thatch of the roof— possibly 
owing to the tenement being of recent construction. But 
Eustace was dead tired and the shelter and solitude were 
more than welcome to him just then. The curdled milk 
and mealies were both refreshing and satisfying. Having 
finished his meal he lighted his pipe, for his captors had 
deprived him of nothing but his weapons, and proceeded to 
think out the situation. But nature asserted herself. Be- 
fore he had taken a dozen whiffs he fell fast asleep. 

How long he slept he could not tell, but it niust have 
been some hours. He awoke with a start of bewilderment, 
for his slumber had been a heavy and dreamless one : the 
slumber of exhaustion. Opening his eyes to the subdued 
gloom of the hut he hardly knew Avhere he was. The 
atmosphere of that primitive and ill-ventilated tenement 
was stuffy and oppressive with an effluvium of grease and 
smoke, and the cockroaches were running over his face and 
hands. Then the situation came back to him with a rush. 
He was a prisoner. 

There was not much doing outside, to judge by the tran- 
quillity that reigned. He could hear the deep inflections of 
voices carrying on a languid conversation, and occasion- 
ally the shrill squall of an infant. His watch had stopped, 
but he guessed it to be about the middle of the afternoon. 

He was about to make an attempt at undoing the door, 
but remembering the parting injunction of his guard, he 
judged it better not. At the same time it occurred to him 
that he had not yet investigated the cause of the saving of 
his life. Here was a grand opportunity. 

Cautiously, and with one ear on the alert for interruption, 
he took the silver box from the inside pocket in which it 
was kept. Removing the chamois leather corering, which 
showed a clean cut an inch long, he gazed with astonish- 
ment upon the box itself. The assegai had struck it fair, 
and there in the centre of the lid its point, broken off flush, 
remained firmly embedded. He turned the box over. The 
point had just indented the other side but not sufficiently to 
show through. 

For some minutes he sat gazing upon it, with a strange 
mixture of feeling, and well he might. This last gift of 
Eanswyth's had been the means of saving his life— it and it 
alone. It had lain over his heart, and but for its interven- 



172 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



tion that sure and powerfully directed stroke would have 
cleft his heart in twain. That was absolutely a fact, and 
one established beyond any sort of doubt. 

Her hand had averted the death-stroke — the shield of 
her love had stood between him and certain destruction. 
Surely — surely that love could not be so unlawful — so ac- 
cursed a thing. It had availed to save him — to save him 
for itself. Eustace was not a superstitious man, but even 
he mighty to a certain extent, feel justified in drawing a 
highly favourable angury from the cifcumsta.ice. Yet he 
was not out of his difficulties — his perils — yet. They 
had, in fact, only just begun ; and this he knew. 

So far his captors had not ill-treated him, rather the reverse. 
But this augured next to nothing either way. The Gcaldkas 
had suffered severe losses. Even now they were in hiding. 
They were not likely to be in a very merciful mood in deal- 
ing with a white prisoner, one of the hated race which had 
shot down their fighting men, driven them from their coun- 
try, and carried off most of their cattle. The people would 
clamour for his blood, the chiefs would hardly care to run 
counter to their wish — he would probably be handed over 
to the witch-doctors and put to some hideous and linger- 
ing death. 

It was a frightful thought, coming upon him alone and 
helpless. Better that the former blow had gone home. He 
would have met with a swift and merciful death in the ex- 
citement of battle — whereas now ? And then it crossed his 
mind that the interposition of the silver box might not have 
been a blessing after all, but quite the reverse. What if it 
had only availed to preserve him for a death amid lingering 
torments ? But no, he would not think that. If her love 
had been the means of preserving him thus far, it had pre- 
served him for itself. Yet it was difficult to feel sanguine 
with the odds so terribly against him. 

What would she do when she heard that Tom had been 
killed and himself captured by the savages? "Were any- 
thing to befall you, my heart would be broken," had been 
almost her last words, and the recollection of them tortured 
him like a red-hot iron, for he had only his own foolhardiness 
to thank that he was in this critical position ?t all. Fortu- 
nately it did not occur to him that he might be reported 
dead, instead of merely missing. 

His reflections were interrupted. .A. great noise arose 



THE SILVER BOX, 



173 



without — voices — then the steady tramp of feet — the clash of 
weapons — and over and above all, the weird, thrilling rhyth- 
mical chant of the war-song. He had just time to restore 
the silver box to its place, when the door of the hut was 
flung open and there entered three Kafirs fully armed. 
They ordered him to rise immediately and pass outside. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

THE PARAMOUNT CHIEF. 

The spectacle which met Eustace's eyes, on emerging 
from the dark and stuffy hut, struck him as grand and stir- 
ring in the extreme. 

He saw around him an open clearing, a large natural am- 
phitheatre, surrounded by dense forest on three sides, the 
fourth being constituted by a line of jagged rocks more or 
less bush-grown. Groups of hastily constructed huts, in 
shape and material resembling huge beehives, stood around 
in an irregular circle, leaving a large open space in the centre. 
And into this space was defiling a great mass of armed 

warriors. , , • -u ^ 

On they came, marching in columns, the air vibrating to 
the roar of their terrible war-song. On they came, a w:ld 
and fierce array, in their fantastic war dresses— the glint of 
their assegai blades dancing in the sunlight like the ripples 
of a shining sea. They were marching round the great 

open space. . t- 

Into this muster of fierce and excited savages Eustace 
found himself guided. If the demeanour of his guards 
had hitherto been good-humoured and friendly, it was so 
no longer. Those immediately about him kept turning to 
brandish their assegais in his face as they marched, going 
through the pantomime of carving him to pieces, uttering 
taunts and threats of the most blood-curdling character. 

" Hau umlungu ! Are you cold ? The fire will soon be 
ready. Then you will be warm— warm, ha-ha ! ' they 
sang, rubbing their hands and spreading them out before 
an imaginary blaze. " The wood is hot— ah-ah ! It burns ! 
ah-ah ! " And then they would skip first on one foot, 
then on another, as if trying to avoid a carpeting of glow- 
ing coals. Or, " The fighting men of the Araa Gcal6ka are 
thirsty But they will soon have to drink. Blood— plenty 
of blood— the drink of warriors— the drink that shall make 



THE PARAMOUNT CHIEF. 



175 



their hearts strong. Hau ! " And at this they would feign 
to stab the prisoner— bringing their blades near enough to 
have frightened a nervous man out of his wits. Or again : 
" The ants are hungry. The black ants are swarming for 
their food. It shall soon be theirs. Ha-ha ! They want 
it alive. They want eyes. They want brains. They want 
blood ! Ha-ha ! The black ants are swarming for their 
food." Here the savages would squirm and wriggle as in 
imitation of a man being devoured alive by insects. For 
this was an allusion to a highly popular barbarity among 
these children of Nature ; one not unfrequently meted 
out to those who had incurred'the envy or hostility of the 
chiefs and witch-doctors, and had been "smelt out 
accordingly. 

When all were gathered within the open space the war 
chant ceased. The great muster of excited barbarians had 
formed up into crescent rank and now dropped into a squat- 
ting posture. To the open side of this, escorted by about 
fifty warriors, the prisoner was marched. 

As he passed through that sea of fierce eyes, all turned 
on him with a bloodthirsty stare, between that great crowd 
of savage forms, squatted around like tigers on the crouch, 
Eustace felt his pulses quicken. The critical time had 

arrived, , . , , j 

Even at that perilous moment he took in the place and 
its surroundings. He noted the faces of women, behind the 
dark serried ranks of the warriors, peering eagerly at him. 
There were, however, but few, and they wore a crushed and 
anxious look. He noted, further, that the huts were of 
recent and hasty construction, and that the cattle inclosure 
was small and scantily stocked. All this pointed to the 
conclusion that the kraal was a temporary one. The bulk 
of the women and cattle would be stowed away in some 
more secure hiding place. Only for a moment, however, 
was he thus suffered to look around. His thoughts were 
quickly diverted to a far more important consideration. 

His guards had fallen back a few paces, leaving him 
standing alone. In front, seated on the ground, was a group 
consisting of a dozen or fourteen persons, all eyeing him 
narrowly. These he judged to be the principal chiefs and 
councillors of the Gcaleka tribe. One glance at the most 
prominent figure among these convinced him that he stood 
in the presence of the Paramount Chief himself. 



176 



•TWEEN SNOIV AND FIEE. 



Kreli, or Sarili, as the name is accurately rendered — the 
former being, however, that by which he was popularly, in- 
deed, historically known — the chief of the Gcalekas and the 
suzerain head of all the Xosa race, was at that time 
about sixty years of age. Tall and erect in person, digni- 
fied in demeanour, despising gimcrack and chimney-pot hat 
counterfeits of civilisation, he was every inch a fine speci- 
men of the savage ruler. His shrewd, massive countenance 
showed character in every line, and tlie glance of his keen 
eyes was straight and manly. His beard, thick and bushy 
for a Kafir, was only just beginning to show a frost of gray 
among its jetty blackness. Such was the man before whom 
Eustace Milne stood — so to speak — arraigned. 

For some moments the august group sat eyeing the 
prisoner in silence, Eustace, keenly observing those dark 
impassive faces, realised that there was not one there which 
was known to him. He had seen Hlangani's gigantic form, 
resplendent or the reverse in the most wildly elaborate war 
costume, seated among the fighting men. Here in the group 
before him all were strangers. 

While some of his chiefs were arrayed in costumes of 
plumes and skins and cow-tails exceeding fantastic, Kreli 
himself had eschewed all martial adornments. An ample 
red blanket swathed his person, and above his left elbow he 
wore the thick ivory armlet affected by most Kafirs of rank 
or position. But there was that about his personality 
which marked him out from the rest, Eustace, gazing 
upon the arbiter of his fate, realised that the latter looked 
every inch a chief — every inch a man. 

"Why do you come here making war upon me and ray 
people, umhingu?" said the chief, shortly. 

" There is war between our races " answered Eustace. 
" It is every man's duty to fight for his nation, at the com- 
mand of his chief." 

" Who ordered you to take up arms against us ? You are 
not a soldier, nor are you a policeman." 

This was hard hitting. Eustace felt a trifle nonplussed. 
But he conceived that boldness would best answer his 
purpose. 

" There were not enough regular troops or Police to 
stand against the might of the Gcal^ka nation," he replied. 
" Those of us who owned property were obliged to take up 
arms in defence of our property." 



THE PARAMOUNT CHIEF. 



177 



" Was your property on the eastern side of the Kei ? 
Was it on this side of the Bashi ? " pursued the chief. 
" When a man's house is threatened does he go four days' 
journey away from it in order to protect it ? " A hum of 
assent— a sort of native equivalent for "Hear, hear," went up 
from the councillors at this hard hit. 

" Do I understand the chief to mean that we whose prop- 
erty lay along the border were to wait, quietly for the 
Gcal^ka forces to come and ' eat us up ' while we were un- 
prepared ?" said Eustace quietly. " That because we were 
not on your side of the Kei we were to do nothing to de- 
fend ourselves ; to wait until your people should cross the 
river?" . „ 

" Does a dog yelp out before he is kicked ? 

"Does it help him, anyway, to do so after ? " replied the 
prisoner, with a slight smile over this new rendering of an 
old proverb. " But the chief cannot be talking seriously. 
He is joking." 

Hau!" burst forth the amapakati in mingled surprise 
and resentment. 

"You are a bold man, umliifigu," said Kreli, frowning. 
"Do you know that I hold your life in my hand ?" 

This was coming to the point with a vengeance. Eustace 
realised that, like Agag, he must " walk delicately." It 
would not do to take up a defiant attitude. On the other 
hand to show any sign of trepidation might prove equally 
disastrous. He elected to steer as near as possible a mid- 
dle course. 

" That is so," he replied. " I am as anxious to live as 
most people. But this is war-time. When a man goes to 
war he does not lock up his life behind him at home. What 
would the Great Chief gain by my death ? " 

" His people's pleasure," replied Kreli, with sombre 
significance, waving a hand in the direction of the armed 
crowd squatted around. Then turning, he began confer- 
ring in a low tone with his councillors, with the result that 
presently one of the latter directed that the prisoner should 
be removed altogether beyond earshot. 

Eustace accordingly was marched a sufficient distance 
from the debating group, a move which brought him close 
to the ranks, of armed warriors. Many of the latter 
amused themselves by going through a wordless, but highly 
suggestive performance illustrative of the fate they hoped 



178 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



awaited him. One would imitate the cutting out of a 
tongue, another the gouging of an eye, etc., all grinning 
the while in high glee. 

Even Eustace, strong nerved as he was, began to feel the 
horrible strain of the suspense. He glanced towards the 
group of chiefs and amapakati much as the prisoner in the 
dock might. eye the door of the room where the jury was 
locked up. He began talking to his guards by way of di- 
version. . 

" Who is that with Hlangani, who has just joined the 
amapakati ? " he asked. 

" Ukiva." 

He looked with new interest at the warrior in question, 
in whose name he recognized that of a fighting chief of 
some note, and who was reported to have commanded the 
enemy in the fight with Shelton's patrol. 

" And the man half standing up — who is he?" 

" Sigcau— the great chief's first son. Whau umldngu / 
broke off his informant. " You speak with our tongue 
even as one of ourselves. Yet the chiefs and principal men 
of the House of Gcal^ka are unknown to you by sight." 

" Those of the House of Gaika are not. Tell me. 
Which is Botmanc ?" 

" Botmane ? Lo ! " replied several of the Kafirs em- 
phatically. " He next to the Great Chief." 

Eustace looked with keen interest upon the man pointed 
out— an old man with a gray head, and a shrewd, but 
kindly natured face. He was Kreli's principal councillor 
and at that time was reported to be somewhat in disfavour by 
reason of having been strenuously opposed to a war with 
the whites. He was well known to Eustace by name ; m 
fact the latter had once, to his considerable chagrin, just 
missed meeting him on the occasion of a political visit he 
had made to the Komgha some months previously. 

Meanwhile the prisoner might well feel anxious as he 
watched the group of amapakati, for they were debating 
nothing less than the question whether he should be put to 
death or not. ^ 

The chief Kreli was by no means a cruel or bloodthirsty 
ruler — and he was a tolerably astute one. It is far from 
certain that he himself had ever been in favour of making 
war at that time. He was too shrewd and far-seeing to 
imagine that success could possibly attend his arms in the 



T//E PARAMOUNT CHIEF. 



179 



long run, but on the other hand he bore a deep and lateiit 
trudge against the English by reason of the death at their 
hands of his father, Hintza, who had been made a prisoner 
not altogether under circumstances of an unimpeachable 
Mnd and shot while attempting to escape. This had oc 

^"^S^ wh^ tlt^^otnrbloods of the tribe thirsting for 
martial distinction, had forced the hands of their elde s 
and rulers, by provoking a series of frictions with their 
Fineo neighbours then under British protection, the old 
chief had exercised no very strenuous opposition to their 
indulging themselves to the top o£ their bent. , 

Having, however, given way to the war spirit, he left no 
stone unturned to insure success. ^^'^'^I'l-X^ITXT. 
the Gaika and Hlambi tribes located m British KafTraria 
viz • within the Colonial limits-but although plenty of 
voiing men owning those nationalities drifted across the 
S squads to join his standard the bulk of the tribes 
themselves were slow to respond to his appeal. Had it 
been otherwise, the position of the border people would 
Save been more serious. With the enemy at their very 
doors they would have found plenty of occupation at 
home, instead of being free to pour their fo'-^.^.^^Jo he 
Transkei. Things, however, had turned out differently. 
The Gcaleka country had been ravaged from end to end, 
and the old chief was at that moment practical y a fugi- 
tive It may readily be imagined, therefore, that he was in 
rather an ugly humour, and not likely to show much 
clemency towards the white prisoner in his power. 

There was another consideration which militated against 
the said clemency. Although he had made no allusion to 
t it must not be supposed that Kreli was all this time un- 
aware of the identity of his prisoner. The latter's friend- 
ship with many of the Gaika rulers was a rank offence in 
the eyes of the Paramount Chief just then. Had he not 
sent his "word " to those chiefs, and had not his word 
fallen on ears dull of hearing ? Instead of rising at his cal 
they were yet " sitting still." What more likely than that 
white men, such as this one, were influencmg them-were 
advising them contrary to their allegiance to him, the ir-ara 

mount Chief? . ^ „o,;„,t flu* 

Some of the amapakah were in favour of sparing tlie 
prisoner at present. He might be of use to them hereafter. 



'TWEEN SNOiV AND FIRE. 



He seemed not like an ordinary white man. He spoke their 
tongue and understood their customs. There was no know- 
ing but that he might eventually serve them materially with 
his own people. Others, again, thought they might just as 
well give him over to the people to be put to death in their 
own way. It would please the fighting men — many of whom 
had lost fathers and brothers at the hands of the whites. 
Yet again, one or two more originated another proposal. 
They had heard something of this white man being a bit of 
a wizard — that he owned a " charm " which had turned the 
blade of a broad assegai from his heart. Let him be handed 
over to Ngcenika, the great witch-doctress. Let her try 
whether his " charm " was too strong for her. 

This idea met with something like universal acceptance. 
Shrewd and intelligent as they are in ordinary matters, 
Kafirs are given to the most childish superstitions, and, in 
adopting the above suggestion, these credulous savages 
really did look forward to witnessing something novel in the 
way of a competition in magic. In their minds the experi- 
ment was likely to prove a thing worth seeing. 

*^Ewa ! Ewa / " * they cried emphatically. " Let Ngcenika 
be called." 

" So be it," assented Kreli. " Let the witch-doctress be 
sought." 

But almost before the words had left his lips — there pealed 
forth a wild, unearthly shriek — a frightful yell — emanating 
from the line of rugged and bush-grown rocks which shut in 
one side of the clearing. Chiefs, amapakati, warriors — all 
turned towards the sound, an anxious expression upon every 
face — upon many, one of apprehension, of fear. Even to 
the white prisoner the interruption was sufficiently startling. 
And then there bounded forth into their midst a hideous, 
a truly appalling apparition. 

* Yea— yes. , 



CHAPTER XXX. 



THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 

Man, woman, or demon — which was it ? 
A grim, massive face, a pair of fierce, rolling eyes, which 
seemed to sparkle with a cruel' and blood thirsty scintilla- 
tion, a large, strongly built trunk, whose conformation alone 
betrayed the sex of the creature. Limbs and body were hung 
around thickly with barbarous "charms" in hideous and 
disgusting profusion— birds' heads and claws, frogs and 
lizards, snakes' skins, mingling with the fresh and bloody 
entrails of some animal. But the head of this revolting 
object was simply demoniacal in aspect. The hair, instead 
of being short and woolly, had been allowed to attain some 
length, and hung down on each side of the frightful face 
in a black, kinky mane, save for two lengths of it, which, 
stiffened with some sort of horrid pigment, stood erect like 
a couple of long red horns on each side of the wearer's ears. 
Between these " horns," and crowning the creature's head, 
grinned a human skull, whose eyeless sockets were smeared 
round with a broad circle in dark crimson. And that 
nothing should be wanting to complete the diabolical horror 
of her appearance, the repulsive and glistening coils of a 
live serpent were folding and unfolding about the left arm 
and shoulder of the sorceress. 

Something like a shudder of fear ran through the ranks 
of the armed warriors as they gazed upon this frightful 
apparition. Brave men all— fearless fighters when pitted 
against equal forces — now they quailed, sat there in their 
armed might, thoroughly cowed before this female fiend. 
She would require blood — would demand a life, perhaps 
several — that was certain. Whose would it be ? 

The wild, beast-like bounds of the witch-doctress subsided 
into a kind of half-gliding, half-dancing step— her de- 
moniacal words into a weird nasal sort of chant — as she 
approached the chief and his councillors. 

^Seek not for Ngcenika, O son of Hintza, father of the 

l8i 



l82 



'TWEEN SMOW AND FIRE. 



children of Xosa ! " she cried in a loud voice, fixing her 
eyes upon Kreli. " Seek not for Ngcenika, O amaj>akatt, 
wise men of the House of Gcal^ka, when your wisdom is 
defeated by the witchcraft of your enemies. Seek not 
Ngcenika, O ye fighting men, children of the Great Chief, 
your father, when your blood is spilled in battle, and your 
bullets fly harmless from the bodies of the whites because 
of the evil wiles of the enemy within your ranks. Seek her 
not, for she is here— here to protect you— here to ' smell 
out'' the evil wizard in your midst. She needs no seeking ; 
she needs no calling. She is here ! " 

"Ha ! ha ! " ejaculated the warriors in a kind of gasping 
roar, for those ominous words told but too truly what would 
presently happen. Not a man but dreaded that he might 
be the victim, and in proportion as each man stood well in 
rank or possessions, so much the greater was his appre- 
hension. , 

" I hear the voices of the shadowy dead ! ' went on the 
sorceress, striking an attitude of intense listening, and gazing 
upwards over the heads of her audience. "I hear their 
voices like the whispering murmur of many waters. I hear 
them in the air ? No. I hear them in the roar of the salt 
waves of yonder blue sea? No. I hear them in the 
whispering leaves of the forest— in the echoing voices of 
the rocks? No. In the sunshine? No. I am in the 
dark— in the dark!" she repeated, raising her tone to a 
high quavering shriek, while her features began to work, 
her eyes to roll wildly. "I am in the gloom of the far 
depths, and the world itself is rolling above me. The air 
is thick. I choke. I suffocate. I am in the tomb. The 
rock wails close me in. There are faces around me— eyes- 
myriads of eyes— serpent eyes— hissing tongues. They 
come about me in the black gloom. They scorch— they 

burn. Ah— h!" u f , 

An awful change had come over the speaker, iler teat- 
ures were working convulsively — she foamed at the mouth 
—her eyes were turned literally inward so that nothing but 
the white was visible. Her body swayed to and fro in 
short, irregular jerks, as though avoiding the attack of unseen 
enemies. The live serpent, which, grasped by the neck, she 
held aloft in the air, writhed its sinuous length, and with 
hood expanded and eyes scintillating, was hissing ferociously. 
The effect upon the savage audience was striking. Not a 



THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 



word was uttered— not a finger moved. All sat motionless, 
like so many statues of bronze, every eye bent m awesome 
cntrancemeit upon the seer. Even Eustace felt the ongi- 
nal contemptuous interest with which he had watched the 
performanance deepen into a blood-curdlmg sort of repul- 
sion From the stage of mere j ugglery the case had entered 
upon one which began to look uncommonly bke genuine 
diabolical possession. 

« I am in the gloom of the depths," shrieked the hideous 
sorceress, "even the Home of the Immortal Serpents, 
which none can find save those who are beloved of the 
spirits. The air is black and thick. It is shinmg with eyes 
-eyes, eyes-everywhere eyes. The ground is alive with 

serpenis, even the spirits of o^'^ /^^^'^f ^^f f ' 
<;neak Thev speak but one word and that is Blood ! 
Blood-blood-blood!" repeated the frightful monster. 
"Blood must flow ! blood ! blood ! " And uttering a series 
of deafening howls she fell prone to the earth in frightful 

"^^No^ one of the spectators moved. The hideous features 
working, the eyes roUing till they seemed about to drop 
from their sockets, the foam flying froni the lips— the 
body of Ngcenika seeming to stiffen itself like a corpse 
bounded many feet in the air, and falling to the earth with 
a heavy thud, bounded and rebounded again— the festoons 
of barbarous and disgusting ornaments which adorned her 
person, twisting and untwisting in the air like clusters of 
snakes The live rinkhaah, which had escaped from her 
grasp, lay coiled in an attitude of defence, its head reared 

threateningly. ^- Tv,i»n 

For some minutes this appaUmg scene continued. Then 
the horrible contortions of the body ceased. 1 he witcn- 
doctress lay motionless ; the swollen eyes, the terrible face 
set and rigid, staring up to Heaven. She might have been 
dead. So, too, might have been the spectators, so still, so 
motionless were they. . 

The suspense was becoming horrible, the silence crushing. 
There was just a whisper of air among the leaves of the sur- 
rounding forest, causing a faint rustic, otherwise not a 
sound-not even the distant call of a bird. Eustace gazing 
upon the motionless dark forms that surrounded him and 
upon the immeasurably repulsive figure oi the prosfrate 
' demoniac, felt that he could stand it no longer— that he 



184 'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 

must do something to break that awful silence even though 
it should cost him his life, when an interruption occurred, 
so sudden, so startling in its unexpectedness, that he could 
hardly believe his eyes. 

The witch-doctress, who had seemed prone in the power- 
lessness of extreme exhaustion for hours at least, suddenly 
sprang to her feet with a blood-curdling yell. 

" The white wizard ! " she shrieked. " The white wizard ! " 

" Ha ! The white wizard ! The white wizard ! " echoed 
the warriors, relieved that the storm had passed them by this 
time. "Letussee. Is his charm too strong for Ngcenika ? " 

The time had come. Though unarmed, Eustace was 
still unbound. Instinctively and warily he glanced around, 
eager to grasp at some means of doing battle for his life. 
But no such means rewarded his glance, 

Ngcenika walked up to one of the guards,, and laid her 
hand on the bundle of assegais which he carried. The man 
surrendered it with alacrity, striving to conceal the appre- 
hension which came over his features as he came face to 
face with the terrible witch-doctress. She chose a short- 
handled, broad-bladed stabbing assegai, examined it critic- 
ally, and returned to her former position. 

Placing the weapon on the ground she proceeded to dance 
round it in a circle, chanting a weird, droning incantation. 
The prisoner watched her keenly. No attempt had been 
made to bind him. At last her song ceased. Grasping the 
assegai in her powerful right hand, she advanced towards 
Eustace. 

At a sign from Ngcenika the guards fell back some twenty 
yards. Behind them were the dense ranks of armed warriors, 
all craning eagerly forward to watch what was to follow. At 
about the same distance in front sat the group of chiefs and 
councillors, so that the prisoner and the sorceress were 
completely hemmed in. 

"White wizard — white dog ! " she began, standing within 
striking distance. " Wizard indeed ! What is thy magic 
worth ? Dost thou not fear me ? " 

Eustace, seeing through the repulsive mass of gew-gaws 
which represented the juggling line of business, realised that 
he had to deal with a powerful, broadly built, middle-aged 
woman of al>out five foot ten. She looked hard and muscular, 
and as strong as any two men — in fact, no mean antagonist, 
even had he been similarly armed, and he was unarmed. 



THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 



» No I do not fear you," he replied quietly, keeping his 
eves upon hers, like a skilful fencer. The answer seemed 
rather to amuse than irritate her. a , r a. • 

"hc does not fear me ! " she repeated. Ha ! /«y^ka* 
does he fear thee ! " she cried, darting the serpent s head 
within a couple of inches of the prisoner's face. The reptile 
Ed hideously, but Eustace, who knew that ,t had been ren- 
dered harmlessf and that it must long smce have spat its 
venom glands 'empty,t did not allow himself to be dis- 
concerted by this. A murmur of wonder arose from the 

^Pff^fis' not afraid ! The white wizard is not afraid ! " 

^^''Vosfthou dare to stand before me while I strike thee ? 
Is thy charm potent enough, O white wizard ? said 
Ngcenika, raising the assegai in the air. 
" I dare ** 

" Preserit thy breast, then. Give thy heart to my stroke. 
Let thy ' charm ' protect thee if it can." 

A desperate plan had occurred to Eustace---to wrench the 
assegai from the hag's hand and make a dash for the forest. 
But even concurrently with the idea, he realized the abso 
lute impracticability of it. He more than doubted his ability 
to disarm his adversary; he had no doubt at all as to the cer- 
tainty of his being seized long before he could accomplish 
that feat. No-he must stand up to the blow. It was his 
only chance, and at any rate his death would be a swift and 

^^Th? dark!' brawny arm of the sorceress was upraised, her 
muscular fingers gripped the assegai haft a few inches from 
the blade. The shining spear-head gleamed aloft. 

Not once did his glance wander from that cruel demon- 
face confronting him. Yet between it and him floated 
the sweet, oval contour of another very different coun- 

*^"^Love of my life— preserve that life once more for thy- 
self ! " he murmured with the impassioned fervour of an 
invocation of faith. His lips moved. ^ 

" Ha ! Thou repeatest thy charm, O white wizard, saia 

l^rinkMals, a variety of cobra, has the faculty of being able 
when angry, to eject aa acrid, venomous saliva, to a distance of about 8»t 
feet. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Ngcenika. " Is it stronger than mine ? Is it stronger than 
^ " • u ^ i^parrl a Din drop. That fierce, excitable 
;rttd':ene,ldd . heir very 

J'^^Triress The e was a flash of light through the 
''■''^ftie sTear descended No writhing body, gu*mg 
wShlfdNanltothe earth. The prisoner stood, erect 

"■"Xr'-cried the warriors. "The ■charm' is too 
strone The white inan is unhurt— ^<J« - . 

^S^t^ r„«n- ?hSi;err?\td the 

"';5^*^rh^;trfrrtd.i„naw^^^ 

» Thy weapon is bewitched ! cried the nag, m ^ 

"Then.an tnade no reply. He thought hi?/-^" "gf/' 
„LIr'"tUeir.Se'4arwr^^'uc.thrhi,U..Lin 

moment's hesitation-and there advanced fr^^^^ the 
'-a^pVd^^his«fa;7aToad^£dk^^^^^^^^^^ 
"^""l-i'-Sfni, the son of Mapu'e^he ^^ga - 

L?j:^a:i'ri™//».'"^ 



t *The broad headed close-quarter assegai. 



THE WITCH DOCTRESS. 



187 



enemy, but have never struck him twice. Haw. I struck 
this white man and my weapon broke, my strong umkonto* 
that has drunk the heart's blood of five Fingo dogs. The 
weapon is bewitched. He who has done this^ thing must 
be found. The wizard must be found. Hau!" 

Ewa, £wa.'" shouted the warriors. "The wizard 
must be found. The great witch-doctress must find him. 
Then will the v/hite man's magic be no longer too strong 
for her. He must be killed ! Find him ! Find him ! He 
must be killed ! " 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



THE " SMELLING OUT," 

" He must be killed ! He must be killed ! " 

The cry was taken up. The bloodthirsty shout rolled 
through the ranks fiercer and fiercer till the wild roaring 
chorus was deafening. That crouching, armed multitude, 
a moment before so motionless and silent, sprang erect, 
swaying to and fro, frenzied with uncontrollable excitement; 
a legion of dark demons roaring and howling under the 
promptings of superstition and ferocity ; bellowing for 
blood — blood, blood, no matter whose. Weapons waved 
wildly in the air, and the deep-throated shout volleyed 
forth. " He must be killed ! " . 

The warriors were seated in an immense double semi- 
circle. Gliding with her half-dancing step to the upper 
end of this, the witch-doctress began chanting an incanta- 
tion in a high nasal key, an invocation to the great Inyoka* 
who held the kraal and its inhabitants under its especial 
favour. As she commenced her round, the shouting of the 
warriors was hushed. Ail stood upright and silent. Different 
emotions held sway in each grim, dark countenance. The 
hearts of many were sinking with dcndly fear, 3'et each strove 
to meet the eye of the terrible witrh-doctress boldly and 
without quailing. They knew that that fatal round would 
prove of deadly import to one or more of them ere it was 
completed. 

" Yio^Inyoka 'nukulu ! \ " chanted the hag, with a signifi- 
cant shake of the body of the hideous reptile, which she 
held by the neck. " Find the wizard ! Find the wizard ! " 

"Find the wizard ! " echoed those whom she had already 
passed by as she commenced her passage along tlie line. 
" Find the wizard ! " they shouted, rapping the ground with 
their sticks. Those who had yet to undergo the ordeal kept 
stern silence. 

The chorus grew in volume as the number qualified to 

* Serpent. | Great serpent. 

rSS 



THE SAfELUVG OUT." 



189 



swell it increased. Not merely a lust for blood did that hor- 
rid shout represent— it embodied also a delirious relief on 
the part of those already safe. 

Suddenly Ngcenika made a half pause, raising her voice 
in the ntiidst of her yelling chant. The serpent, its black 
coils writhing and twisting around her arm, opened its jaws 
and hissed horribly. Those still expectant held their 
breaths ; those already relieved shouted and hammered 
with their sticks harder than ever. Tlio.se directly opposite 
the sorceress, at this ill-umened juncture, stood turned to 
stone. 

" Find him, Inyoka ! " snarled the hag. 

" Find him ! Find hiui ! " echoed the deep-toned chorus. 

But the pause was only m.>mentar>. Nat yet was the 
victim Singled out. Ngcenika resumed her way, only to 
repeat thi process further along the line. And this she 
would do at intervals, sometimes coming to a dead stop in 
such significant and purpose-fraught fashion that the whole 
body of spectators stood ready to hurl themselves like light- 
ning upon the unlucky one denounced. The hellish hag 
was enjoying the terror she inspired, and as strong men of 
tried bravery one after another quailed before her she 
gloated over their fears to such a pitch that her voice rose 
to a deafening shriek of demoniacal glee. 

The other end of the great human crescent was nearly 
reached and still no victim. And now those who had es- 
caped so far began to feel their apprehensions return. It 
would be no unprecedented affair were a second trial to 
occur, or even a third. The sorceress might elect to make 
her fatal progress through the ranks again and again. There 
were barely fifty men left. Unless the victim or victims should 
be found among those, a second progress v/as inevitable. 

The bloodthirsty chorus rose into a deafening roar. 
The tension was fearful to witness. The hideous posses- 
sion of the repulsive witch-doctress had communicated 
itself in some degree to the mass of excitable savages. 
Many were foaming at the mouth and apparently on the eve 
of convulsions. Not satisfied with the shouting, the in- 
furiated mob beat time with their feet in addition to their 
sticks, as they joined in the hell-hag's demoniacal incanta- 
tions, and the perspiration streamed from every pore till the 
very air was heavy with a sickening and musky odour. It 
was a repellent and appalling scene, and even the white 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Spectator, apart from the extreme peril of his own situation, 
felt his blood curdle within him at this vision of what was 
very like a diabolical power let loose. But there was worse 
to follow. 

Suddenly the sorceress was seen to halt. Her voice rose 
to a frightful yell, as with blazing eyes, and pouring forth a 
torrent, of denunciation, she raised the great black serpent 
aloft in such wise that its writhing neck and hissing jaws 
made a dart straight at the face of a man in the rear rank 
of the line and near the end of the latter. 

" Thou hast found him, Inyoka .' Thou hast found him ! 
Show us the wizard ! " screeched the iiideous witch-doctress. 
The grinning skull and the two devil-like horns of hair which 
surmounted her head quivered convulsively. Her eyes 
started from the sockets, and the weird and barbaric amulets 
hung about her person rattled like castanets. She was 
once more the mouthing demoniac of a short half hour ago. 

The writhings and hisses of the serpent had become per- 
fectly frantic. Suddenly the reptile was seen to spring free 
of her grasp and to fling itself straight at the man whose 
face it had first struck at. 

" The wizard ! The wizard ! " roared the warriors. 
" Hau ! It is Vudana ! Vudana, the son of Sekweni, Hau .' " 

" Vudana, the wizard ! Seize him ! " shrieked the sor- 
ceress. " Seize him, but slay him not. He must confess ! 
He must confess ! On your lives, slay him not ! " 

The first part of her mandate had already been obeyed. 
Those in his immediate neighbourhood had flung themselves 
upon the doomed man and disarmed him almost before the 
words of denunciation had left the hag's lips. The second 
part was in no danger of being disobeyed now. Better for 
the victim if it had. 

The latter was a man just past middle age, with a quiet 
and far from unpleasing cast of features. He was not a 
chief, but had a reputation for shrewdness and foresight be- 
yond that of many an accredited leader. 

Ha, Vudana ! Vudana, the wizard ! " cried Ngcenika 
mockingly. " Vudana, who did not believe in the efficacy 
of my magic. Vudana, who pretended to manufacture 
' charms ' as effective as mine. Vudana, whose poor at- 
tempts at magic have been effective to destroy mine in the 
case of all who believed in them. Call the names of those 
who fell," she cried, addressing the crowd. " They are all 



r//£ " SMELLING OUT. 



191 



believers in Vudana, not in me ! Where are they now ? Ask 
the Amanglezi — even the Amafengu, before whose bullets 
they fell. Ask the jackal and the vulture, who have picked 
their bones. Ask Mfulini, the son of Mapute, whose 
weapon was turned by the magic of the white man ! Was 
he a believer in Vudana's ' charms ' ? " she added in a men- 
acing voice, rolling her eyes around. 

" He was not," shouted the warrior named, springing for- 
^ ward. *' Where is the man who bewitched my broad um- 
' konto. Let him confess and say how he did it." 

"It is well, Mfulini," said the witch-doctress grimly, 
knowing that the other trembled for his personal safety now 
that she had dexterously turned suspicion upon him. 
"Thou shall be the man to make him confess." 

_ " I have nothing to confess," said Vudana. He lay on 
his back, held po werless by several men while waiting for a 
reim to be brought wherewith to bind him. He knew that 
he was doomed— doomed not merely to death, but to one of 
the differing forms of frightful torment meted out to those 
accused of his offence. He knew moreover that whether he 
accused himself or not the result would be the same, 
and a warrior light blazed from his eyes as he replied. 

"If the Great Chief wants my cattle, my possessions, 
they are his ; let him take them. If he wants my life, it too is 
his ; let him take it. But I will not accuse myself of that 
which I have never committed." 

If Kreli had heard this appeal he made no sign. Witch- 
craft was an offence— theoretically at any rate— outside the 
secular province. " Smelling out" was a good old custom 
which had its uses, and one not lightly to be interfered 
with. It was doubtful, however, whether he did hear, for a 
shout of execration, led by the witch-doctress, drowned the 
victim's words. 

" He will not confess ! Au / Where are the hot stones } 
To the fire ! To the fire ! " roared the crowd. The witch- 
doctress uttered a fiendish laugh. 
" No. To the ants ! " she cried. 

" Ewa I Ewa ! To the ants ! " they echoed. " Bring him 
along. Hau ! The ants are hungry ! " 

A noosed reim was thrown round the doomed man's neck, 
and another made fast to each of his wrists, and thus, with 
the whole crowd surging and yelling around him, he was 
dragged into the adjoining forest. 



192 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



"Hambii-ke, umlungu I "* said several of the warriors guard- 
ing Eustace, motioning him to proceed. " We are going to 
show you a sight. Quick, or wc shall be late ! " 

By no means free from apprehension on his own account, 
Eustace obeyed. Wlien they arrive«l among the eager and 
excited crowd, the entertainment had already begun. All 
made way for the white prisoner and his guards, and there 
was a fiendish leer on many a dark face which needed not 
a muttered remark or two to explain. The horrible scene he 
was about to witness was extremely likely to be his own fate. 

The doomed man lay spread eagled on his back ; his hands 
and feet, stretched to their utmost tension, were fastened to 
stout pegs driven into the ground. Two of the Kafirs were 
busily anointing his naked body with a sticky compound, 
which was, in fact, a mixture of honey and native beer. 
This they smeared over him with bits of rag : ears, eyes, 
nose, coming in for a plentiful share. Already his flesh 
seemed alive with moving objects, and then the cause 
became apparent. The wretched man w^as tied down right 
across a huge ant's nest, which had been broken in order to 
receive his body. Already the infuriated insects were mak- 
ink their bites felt. He was to be devonred alive by black ants. 

" Confess, Vudana," cried Ngcenika. " Confess thy witch- 
craft and how thy 'charms' were obtained. The black 
ants bite hard. Ha ! " 

*' Confess ? Ha-ha ! " jeered the stifferer, his eyes blaz- 
ing. " Not to thee, vulture. Not to thee, jackal. Not to 
thee, spawn of a Fingo dog. Ha ! That is the witch-doc- 
tress of the Amagcaleka ! Such a thing as that ! What 
magic can she make ? A cheat — a liar ! I can die — I can 
die as I h ive lived — a man, a warrior," 

" Haul A wizard ! A traitor ! " vociferated the crowd. 
"Confess thy witchcraft, lest we put thee to the flaming tor- 
ment. The fire bites deeper than the black ants. Hau I " 

" I laugh at the fire," roared the victim. " I laugh at all 
that you can do. The fire is but a pleasant warmth. The 
bite of the ants is but the softest tickling. Thou dog, 
Mfulini, were I free, I would whip thee round the kraal." 

" Is thy bed a comfortable one, Vudana ? " replied the bar- 
barian thus apostrophized, with a sneer. And picking up 
a handful of the venomous insects he scattered them upon the 
tortured man's face with a brutal laugh. 

For all his defiant fortitude the latter was undergoing 

* " Go on, white man." 



r/fE ''SMELLING OUT." 



agonies. The ants were swarming all over his body, crawling 
into his nostrils and ears, biting everywhere, eating the rims 
of his eyelids, his lips, his throat, and he was powerless to 
move a hand or foot. The spectators crowded around, 
mocking and jeering at him. A few minutes ago he was a 
man of consideration — now all pushed and fought for the 
front places to witness his sufferings, all heaped execrations 
upon him as they gloated over the horrible punishment of 
one who had been denounced as a wizard. 

*' Whose magic is the greatest, Vudana — thnie or mine ? " 
jeered Ngcenika, bending over her victim until her face was 
close to his. But the proximity of that repulsive counten- 
ance infuriated even the helpless victim. With a roar of 
rage he spat full into it, vociferating: 

" Thou spawn of a Fingo dog ! Thine hour is come. I 
have put my mark upon thee. Before many moons are 
dead thou too shalt die, and thy death shali be even as mine. 
I, Vudana, say it. Hear ye my words all ! '* 

" He has confessed," shouted the crowd. " He is a 
wizard. He has confessed. Let him die the death ! 

With a yell of fury Ngcenika started back, and glared 
vengefully around as if in quest of some means whereby to 
add to the sufferer's agony. Then she remembered that 
it would hardly bear adding to under the circumstances, 
and contented herself with a satanic laugh. 

Nor would it. In a short time the miserable man's body 
Avas black with the repulsive, insects. They swarmed into 
his ears and nostrils. His struggles became fearful, as he 
writhed in the excruciating torment of their poisonous 
bites. He foamed at the mouth. His eyeballs rolled and 
strained in their sockets, and he shook his head and 
roared like a beast. It would be impossible to exaggerate 
the agonies he was undergoing. His frantic struggles availed 
not to shake off a single one of the myriad insects swarm- 
ing upon him, Already his eyes were half eaten away. 

It was a fiendish and appalling spectacle. The man was 
now raving mad. He gnashed his teeth and howled. His 
contortions were fearful to witness. Yet no spark of pity 
or compunction did the sight awaken in the ferocious hearts 
of the spectators, many of whom were, up to the moment of 
the fatal denunciation, his kindred and his friends. But 
since his treatment of the witch-doctress all were chary of 
venturing too close. Many of the superstitious barbarians 



194 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



had already began to look upon Ngcenika with decreased 
respect. Vudana, suffering as a wizard, had spat in her 
face, accompanying the act with a prophecy and a curse. 
On no consideration would they run the risk of exposing 
themselves to like treatment. 

Eustace, forced to be a spectator of this blood-curdling 
scene, felt his head swim with horror and disgust. The 
chastened gloom of the forest, the gibing crowd of armed 
savages, the weird shrill singing of the witch-doctress, and 
the frightful contortions and beast-like roars of the miser- 
able victim, who was being literally devoured alive, made 
up a picture likely to haunt a man in his dreams for the 
rest of his life, to start him suddenly awake in a cold 
sweat of terror. Still he remembered that any exhibition 
of feeling would be in the highest degree dangerous, and 
controlled himself accordingly. 

All this had taken some time and now the frantic struggles 
of the sufferer had subsided. A convulsive shudder would 
now and then run through his limbs, and his sightless eye- 
balls would roll in a manner hideous to behold, and ever 
the disgusting insects swarmed over him in a horrible mov* 
ing mass, now red with blood, and smothered beneath gouts 
of saliva which had flown from the maniac's lips. Upon 
his violent struggles had followed exhaustion — mercifully, 
the exhaustion of approaching death. 

" He is dying ! " cried several, bending over the victim. 
^^Hau! A man like Vudana should have taken much 
longer to die." 

This was said in a disappointed tone. The barbarous 
appetite of these savages was thoroughly roused — whetted 
for further atrocities. A shout arose. 

" The white man ! The white man ! What shall we do 
with him ? " 

Well might Eustace start, in horror and dismay. But a 
glance servL-d to show that the object of attention was not 
himself, but somebody at the other end of the crowd, in 
which direction all heads were turned. Then as the crowd 
parted a moment he caught a glimpse of something — some- 
body rather — which evoked a second start, this time one of 
very unequivocal amazement. Could he believe his eyes ? 



CHAPTER XXXII. 



A STRANGE DUEL. 

In the midst of the savage throng was another white man, 
also a prisoner, who had been forced to assist at the barbar- 
ous scene just detailed. His lot, however, had been cast in 
far worse lines than that of Eustace, for his hands were 
tightly fastened behind his back and a reim connected his 
ankles in such wise that he could only take short steps — 
which painful fact he would every now and then forget, 
with the result of just so many ignominious " croppers." 
Whereat his dusky tormentors would shout with gleeful 
laughter. 

In addition to his bonds the unfortunate man appeared 
to have undergone considerable maltreatment. His hair and 
beard were matted with dust and blood, and his head was 
rudely bandaged with rags of the filthiest description. He 
was clad in a greasy and tattered shirt, and trousers to match 
— his own clothes having been impounded by his captors. 
Moreover there were livid wales upon his face and hands, 
and such parts of his person as were visible through his 
ragged apparel, which showed that he had been unmerci- 
fully beaten. Well might Eustace start in amazement, 
absolute and unfeigned. In this pitiable object he recog- 
nized Tom Carhayes. 

He gazed at him speechless — as at one who has risen 
from the dead. If ever he could have sworn to any man's 
death it would have been to that of the man before him. 
He had seen the assegais flash in the air and descend — had 
heard the dull, sickening blows of the kerries which had 
beaten the life out of his unfortunate cousin. Yet, here 
stood the latter — not exactly unhurt, but yet full of life. 

" jffau, Umlilwane !" said Hlangani, who was standing 
beside the latter — grinning hideously into his victim's face. 
" You are not near enough to see well. The black ants 
bite — harder than the shot from your gun," he went on, 
with grim meaning, beckoning to those who stood by to 



196 



'TWEEN SNO]\- A XI) I- IRE. 



drag the prisoner nearer to the body of tlie unfortunate 
Vudana, which lay, raw and bloody, the veins exposed in 
many places by the bites of the myriad swarming insects. 
Carhayes gazed upon the horrid sight with a shudder of 
disgust. Then raising his eyes he encountered those of 
Eustace. A shout of astonishment escaped him. 

" How did you get here ? " he cried. " Thought you 
were rubbed out if ever any fellow was. Supjiose you 
thought the same of me. Well, well. It'll come to that 
soon. These d — d black devils have bested me, just as I 
reckoned I was besting them. They've been giving me 
h — I already. But I say, Eustace, you seem to be in 
clover," noticing the other's freedom from bonds or ill- 
treatment. Then he added bitterly, " I forgot ; 5'ou always 
did stand in well with tnera." 

"That isn't going to help me much now, I'm afraid," 
answered Eustace. " I've just made a fool of ihe witch-doc- 
tress and slie won't let things rest there, depend upon it. 
My case isn't much more hopeful than yours. Have you 
tried the bribery trick ?" 

" No. How do you mean ? " 

"Offer some big-wig, like our particular friend there — I 
won't mention names— a deuce of a lot of cattle to let you 
escape. Try and work it — only you must be thundering 
careful." 

The Kafirs, who had been attentively listening to the con- 
versation between the two white men, here deemed that enough 
had been said. Dialogue in an unknown tongue must repre- 
sent just so much plotting, argued their suspicious natures. 
So they interposed, 

" See there," said Hlangani, with a meaning glance at the 
fearfully contorted features of the miserable victim of the 
witch-doctress. " See there, Umlilwane, and remember my 
' word ' to you the day you shot my white hunting dog and 
wounded me in the shoulder. You had bttier fird have fut 
off your right hand, for it is better to lose a hand than one's 
mind. Haul You laughed then. Who laughs now ? " 

To Eustace those words now stood out in deadly signifi- 
cance. The wreti.hed Vudana iiad died raving mad. This, 
then, was the promised vengeance. Whatever his own fate 
might be, that of his cousin was sealed. Nothing short of 
a miracle could save him. Carhayes, noting the deadly and 
implacable expression upon the dark countenance of his 



A STRANGE DUEL. 



197 



enemy, realized something of this, and fearless as he habitu- 
ally was, it was all he could do to keep from betraymgsorae 
misgiving. 

At this juncture a mandate arrived from Kreh that the 
warriors should once more assemble within the temporary 
kraal, and that the white prisoners should again be brought 
before him. Singing, chatting, laughing, administermg 
many a sly kick or cuff to poor Carhayes, the savages 
swarmed back to the open space, dragging that unfortunate 
along in rough, unceremonious fashion. Soon the glade v.-as 
empty, save for the body of the miserable victim of their 
blindly superstitious ferocity. It lay there, stark, mangled, 
and hideous. 

The Paramount Chief and his councillors still sat in a 
group apart. They had borne no part in, betrayed no in- 
terest in, the barbarous tragedy which had just taken place. 
Such a matter as the punishment of a wizard was etitirely 
beneath their notice— in theory at any rate. They still sat 
in grave and dignified impassiveness. 

Eustace, noting the difference between his own treatment 
and that of his cousin— the one bound with unnecessary 
rigour, hustled and kicked, the other, thou-h disarmed, 
treated with a certain amount of consideration— began to en- 
tertain strong hopes on his own account. But tending ma- 
terially to dash them was the fact that Ngcenika, standing be- 
fore the chief and the amap.jkati, was favouring that august 
assemblage with a very fierce and denunciatory harangue. 

There were two white men, she said— two prisoners. One 
of these was a man of some power, who had been able to op- 
pose her magic with his own ; only for a time, however— the 
hag took care to add. This man it might be well to keep 
for a little while longer at any rate ; there were several ex- 
periments which she herself intended to try upon him. But 
the other— he had always been a bitter enemy of their race. 
Many had fallen at his hands. Had he not cut a notch upon 
his gunstock for every fighting man of the race of Xosa 
whom he had slain ? There was the gunstock and there 
were the notches. There were many of them, let the Great 
Chief — let the amapakati count. 

At the production of this damning piice de conviction, a 
shout of fury rose from the ranks of the warriors. 

" To the fire ! " they cried. " To the fire with him ! " 

The situation was appalling, yet Carhayes never quailed. 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



The desperate pluck of the man bore him up even then. 
He scowled contemptuously upon the lines of dark and 
threatening faces, then turned erect and fearless towards the 
chief. 

For a few moments they confronted each other thus in 
silence. The Englishman, somewhat weak and unsteady 
from exhaustion and ill-treatment, could still look the arbiter 
of his fate straight in the eyes without blenching. They 
might do their worst and be d — d, he said to himself. He, 
Tom Carhayes, was not going to whine for mercy to any 
nigger— even if that "nigger" was the Chief Paramount of 
all the Araaxosa tribes. 

The latter, for his part, was not without respect for the 
white man's intrepidity, but he had no intention of sparing 
him for all that. He had been debating with his chiefs and 
couricillors, and they had decided that Carhayes ought to be 
sacrificed as an uncompromising and determined enemy of 
their race. The other it might be expedient to keep a little 
longer and see how events would turn. 

" What have you to say, umlilngu ? " said Kreli at length. 

" Nothing. Not a damn thing," broke in Carhayes, in a 
loud, harsh tone. 

"Tom, for God's sake don't be such a fool," whispered 
Eustace, who was near enough to be heard. " Can't you be 
civil for once ? " 

" No, I can't ; not to any infernal black scoundrel," roared 
the other savagely. " It's different with you, Eustace," 
changing his tone to a bitter sneer. " D — n it, man, you're 
about half a Kafir already. AVhy don't you ask old Kreli 
for a couple of his daughters and set up a kraal liere among 
them, eh ? " 

A sounding whack across the ear with the haft of an asse- 
gai choked the words in his throat. He stood, literally 
foaming with fury. 

"Attend, thou white dog," cried a great deep-toned voice. 
"Attend when the Great Chief is talking to thee. Au!" 

An infuriated mastiff straining at his chain is a pretty 
good exemplification of impotent wrath, but even he is noth- 
ing to the aspect and demeanour of Carhayes as he turned 
to the perpetrator of this indignity. The veins rolled in 
his forehead as if they would burst. The muscles stood 
out upon his neck like cords as he strove by a superhuman 
effort to burst his bonds. But HIangani only sneered. 



A STRANGE DUEL. 



199 



" Listen when the Great Chief is talking to thee, thou 
jackal, or I will strike thee again," he said. 

"G— dd— n the Great Chief!" roared poor Tom, his 
voice rising to a hurricane shriek of fury under this shame- 
ful indignity, which he was powerless to resent. And you, 
HIangani, you dog, if I stood unbound I would kill you at 
this moment— kill you all unarmed as I am. Coward . 
Dare you try it ! " . 

"What is this indabaV interrupted Kreli sternly. 
" This white man has a very long tongue. Perhaps it may 
be shortened with advantage." A hum of applause greeted 
this remark, and the chief went on. " You are asked a 
question, umlUngu, and instead of answering you rave and 
bellow and throw yourself about like a cow that has lost her 
calf. And now what have you to say ? You have invaded 
our country and shot our people with your own hand. If a 
man thrusts his head into a hornet's nest, whom shall he 
blame but himself if he gets stung— if he treads upon s. 
serpent, how shall he complain if made to feel the reptile s 
fangs ? " 

" Well, you see, it's war time," answered Carhayes bluntly, 
beginning to think he might ju,t as well say something to 
save his life, if words could save it, that is. 1 have met 
your people in fair fight, and I challenge any man, black or 
white, to deny that I have acted fair, square, and above 
board. And when we do take prisoners we don't treat them 
as I have been treated since I was brought here. They are 
taken care of by the doctors if wounded, as I am ; not tied up 
and starved and kicked, as I have been." 

"Their doctors are the Fingo dogs," interrupted the 
chief darkly, " their medicine a sharp assegai. Freeborn 
men of tlie House of Gcaleka to die at the hand of a Fingo 
slave! Hau!" 

A roar of execration went up at this hit. To the nre 
with him ! " howled the savage crowd. " Give him to us. 
Great Chief, that we may make iiim die a hundred deaths ! " 

" That is the sort of healing my children get when they 
fall into the hands of Amanglezi. And you, umlungu, you 
have offered an insult to the House of Gcaleka m the person 
of HIangani, my herald, a man of the House of Kintza, ray 
father Was it war-time when you shed his blood? Did 
you meet in fair fight when you shot him suddenly and at 
close quarters, he having no gun ? " 



200 



'TWEEN- SA'OIV AND FIRE. 



Was it war-time wlien Hlangani entered the Gaika loca- 
tion to stir up strife ? Was it right that he should bring his 
dogs on to my farm to hunt my bucks ? " answered Carhayes 
fearlessly. " Again, was it fair play for four men, armed 
with assegais, to attack one, who had but two shots? Or 
was it self-defence? Listen to my words, Kreli, and you 
chiefs and amapakati oi the House of Gcaldka," he went 'on, 
raising his voice till it was audible to the whole assemblage. 
"In the presence of you all I proclaim Hlangani a coward. 
He has struck and insulted me because I am bound. He 
dare not meet me free. I challenge him to do so. Loosen 
these bonds. I am weak and wounded. I cannot escape — 
you need not fear— and let him meet me if he dares, wiih any 
weapon he chooses. I challenge him. If he refuses he is 
nothing but a cowardly dog, and worse than the meanest 
Fingo. If you, Kreli, refuse my request, it is because you 
know this bragging herald of yours to be a coward." 

The fierce rapidity of this harangue, the audacity of the 
request embodied within it, took away the auditors' breath. 
Yet the idea appealed to them— appealed powerfully to their 
ardently martial sympathies. The very novelty of such a 
duel as that proposed invested it with a rare attractiveness. 

*' What does Hlangani say ? " observed Kreli, with a 
partly amused glance at his subordinate. 

"This, O Great Chief of my father's house," replied the 
warrior, the light of battle springing into his eyes. " Of 
what man living was Hlangani ever afraid ? What man 
ever had to call him twice ? Yet, O Great Chief, the head 
of my father's house, I would ask a boon. When I have 
whipped this miserable white dog, I would claim possession 
of his wretched carcase absolutely, alive or dead." 

" It is granted, Hlangani," said the chief. 

" And I ? " cried Carhayes. " What shall be given to me 
when I have sent this cur, whostrikes helpless men, howling 
to his hut ? My liberty, of course ? " 

" No," replied Kreli, shortly. 

" No ? " echoed the prisoner. " My life then ? " 

" No," answered the chief again. " Be content, umlungu. 
If you conquer you shall have a swift and merciful death. 
If you fail, Hlangani claims you." 

Carhayes stared at the chief for a moment, then, as he real- 
ised that he had notiiing to hope for, whether he won in the 
combat or not— an expression of such deadly ferocity, such 



A STRANGE DUEL. 



20I 



fell and murderous purpose swept across his face, that 
many of those who witnessed it realised that their country- 
man was going to snatch no easy victory. j u v,- ^ 
The stout raw-hide r«>«J which bound his hands behind 
him were loosened— and that which secured his feet was 
removed. He stood swinging his arms and stamping to 
hasten the circulation— then he asked for some water, which 
was brought him. . 

" Hay umliingu ! " jeered Ngcenika, addressing Eustace, as 
the two white men stood talking together. ' Give this 
valiant fighter some white magic to strengthen him. He 
will need it." . 

" Well, Eustace, I'm going to kill that dog, said Carhayes. 
" I'm going to die fighting anyway, so that's all right. Now 
— I'm ready. What are we going to fight with ? " 

" This," said one of the bystanders, handing him a pair 
of hard-wood kerries. • •, i 

Hlangani now made his appearance similarly armed. 
The crescent formation of warriors had narrowed their 
ranks, the chiefs and councillors and Eustace and his 
guards composing the upper arc of the circle. The pris- 
oner could not have broken through that dense array of 
armed men which hemmed him in on every side, had he en- 
tertained the idea. 

Both the principals in that strange impromptu duel were 
men of splendid physique. The Kafir, nearly naked, looked 
like a bronze giant, towering above his adversary in his 
magnificent height and straight and perfect proportions. 
The Englishman, thick-set, deep-chested, concentrated a 
vast amount of muscular power within his five-foot-eight. 
He had thrown off his ragged shirt, and the muscles of his 
chest and arms stood out like ropes. He looked a terribly 
awkward antagonist, and moreover on his side the conflict 
would be fought with all the ferocity of despair. He was a 
man bent on selling his life dearly. 

Hlangani, for his part, was confident and smiling, lie 
was going to fight wiih his natural weapons, a pair of good, 
trusty kerries. This blundering white man, though he had 
the strength and ferocity of an enraged bull, had more than 
that quadruped's stupidity. He would knock him out of 
shape in no time. 

When blood is up, the spirit of Donnybrook is very strong 
among Kafirs. The next best thing to taking part in a 



202 



'TWEEN SXOIV AND FIRE. 



fight is to witness one — and now, accordingly, every head 
was bent forward with the most eager interest as the two 
combatants advanced towards each other in the open space. 
There was no " ring " proper, nor were there any recognised 
rules ; no " time " either. Each man's business was to kill or 
disable the other— as effectually as possible, and by any 
means in his power. 

Now.a smart Kafir, aimed with two good kernes whose 
use he thoroughly understands, is about as tough a customer 
to tackle as is a professional pugilist to the average Lriton 
who knows how to use his hands but indifferentlv. Of this 
Carhayes was perfectly aware. Consequently his jjlan was 
to meet his antagonist witli extreme wariness ; in fact, to 
stand rather on the defensive, at any rate at first. He was 
a fair single stick player, which tended not a little to 
equalise the chances. 

As they drew near each other and reached striking dis- 
tance, they looked straight into each other's eyes like a pair 
of skilful fencers. The savage, with one kerrie raised in the 
air, the other held horizontally before his breast, but both 
with a nervous, supple grasp, ready to turn any way with light- 
ning rapidity— liis glance upon that of his foe— his active, 
muscular frame poised lightly on one foot, then on another, 
with feline readiness, would have furnished a perfect subject 
for an instantaneous photograph representing strength and 
address combined. The Englishman, his bearded lips com- 
pressed, his blue eyes sparkling and alert, shining with sup- 
pressed eagerness to come to close quarters with his crafty 
and formidable foe, was none the less a fine specimen of 
courage and undaunted resolution. 

Hlanga'ni, a sneering laugh upon his thick lips, opened the 
ball by making a judicious feint. But his adversary never 
moved. He followed it up by another, then a series of them, 
whirling his striking kerrie round the Englishman's head in 
the most startling proximity, now on this side, now on that, 
holding his parrying one ready for any attack the other 
might make upon him. Still Carhayes stood strictly on the 
defensive. He knew the Kafir was trying to " draw him " — 
knew that his enemy's quick eye was prepared for any op- 
portunity. He was not going to waste energy gratuitously. 

Suddenly, and with lightning-like celerity, Hlangani made 
a sweep at the lower part of his adversary's leg. It would 
have been the ruin of a less experienced combatant, 



A STRANGE DUEL. 



203 



but Carhayes' kerrie, lowered just two inches, met that of 
his opponent with a sounding crash just in time to save his 
skull somewhere in the region of the ear. It was a clever 
feint, and a dexterous follow-up, but it had failed. Hlan- 
gani began to realize that he had met a foenian worthy of 
his steel — or, rather, of his wood. Still he knew the other's 
impetuous temper, and by wearing out his patience reckoned 
on obtaining a sure and tolerably easy victory. 

And it seemed as if he would gain the result of his reason- 
ing even sooner than he expected. Bristling with rage, lit- 
erally smarting with the indignity recently put upon him, 
Carhayes abandoned the defen sive. With a sudden rush, 
he charged his antagonist, and for a few moments nothing 
was heard but the clash of hard wood in strike and parry. 
Hlangani was touched on the shoulder, while Carhayes got 
a rap on the knuckles, which in cold blood would have 
turned him almost sick with pain. But his blood was at 
boiling point now, and he was fighting with the despairing 
ferocity of one who has no hope left in life. He pressed 
his gigantic adversary with such vigour and determination 
that the other had no alternative but to give way. 

The fun was waxing fast and furious now. The warriors 
crowding in nearer and nearer, pressed forward in breathless 
attention, encouraging their champion with many a deep- 
toned hum of applause when he scored or seemed likely to 
score a point. The few women then in the kraal stood on 
tiptoe, trying to peer over the heads and shoulders of the 
armed men. Even the chiefs and councillors condescended 
to show considerable interest in this impromptu tournament, 
while Eustace Milne, animated by various motives, watched 
its progress narrowly. 

For a few moments it really seemed that the white man 
would prove the victor. Before the impetuosity of his furi- 
ous attacks Hlangani was constrained to give way more and 
more. A Beserk ferocity seemed to have taken possession 
of Carhayes. His eyes glared through the blood and dust 
which clung to his unwashen visage. Every hair of his 
beard seemed to bristle and stand upright, like the mane of 
a wild boar. His chest heaved, and the dexterity with 
which he whirled his kerrie around his adversary's ears — 
always quick to ward the latter's blows from himself — was 
wonderful to behold. 

Crash — scroosh ! The blow told. A sound as of the 



204 



'TIVEEX SNOW AND FIRE. 



crunching of bone. Hlangani t-taggered back half a dozen 
paces, the blood pouring from a wound in his skull. It was 
a blow that would probably have shattered the skull of a 
white man. 

But before Carhayes could follow it up, the wily savage 
adopted a different plan. By a series of astonishing leaps 
and bounds, now backward, now from side to side, he en- 
deavoured to bewilder his enemy, and very nearly succeeded. 
Mad with rage, desperation, and a consciousness of failing 
strength, Carhayes was fast losing control over himself. 
He roared like a wild animal. He began to strike out 
wildly, leaving his guard open. This the cunning barbarian 
saw and encouraged. Those looking on had no doubt now as 
to who held the winning cards ; even Eustace could see it, 
but his cousin was too far off now to hear a word of warn- 
ing or advice, which, however, was just as well for 
himself. 

Again the combatants closed. The splinters began to fly 
in all directions as the hard-wood sticks whirled and drashed. 
Then suddenly a crushing blow on the wrist sent Carhayes' 
kerrie flying from his grasp and almost simultaneously with 
it came a sickening "scrunch." The white man dropped like 
an ox at the shambles, the blood pouring from his head. 

Echoing the mighty roar of exultation that went up from 
the spectators, Hlangani stood with his foot on the chest of 
his prostrate adversary, his kerrie raised to strike again. 
But there was no necessity. Poor Tom lay like a corpse, 
stunned and motionless. The ferocious triumph depicted on 
the countenance of the savage was horrible to behold. 

"He is mine," he cried, his chest heaving, his eyes blaz- 
ing, " mine absolutely. The Great Chief has said it. Bring 
feimsy 

In a trice a few stout rawhide thongs were procured, and 
Carhayes was once more bound hand and foot. Then act- 
ing under the directions of his fierce conqueror — three or 
four stalwart Kafirs raised the insensible form of the unfor- 
tunate settler and bore it away. 

" He has only begun to taste the fury of Hlangani's re- 
venge," said a voice at Eustace's side. Turning he beheld 
the witch-doctress, Ngcenika. The hag pointed to the re- 
treating group with a mocking leer. 

" He will wake," she went on. " But he will never be 
seen again, Ixeshane — never. Hau !" 



A STRANGE DUEL. 



Where will he wake, Ngcenika ? " asked Eus'.ace, in a 
voice which he strove to render unconcerned. 

" Kwa, Zinyoka,"* replied the hag with a brutal laugh. 
"And where is that ? " 

"Where is it? Ha, ha!" mocked the witch-doctress. 
' Thou art a magician, too, Ixeshane. Wouldst thou in- 
deed like to know 

" Perhaps." 

" Invoke thy magic then, and see if it will tell thee. But 
better not. For they who look upon the Home of the Ser- 
pents are seen no more in life. Thou hast seen the last of 
yon white man, Ixeshane ; thou and these standing around 
here.^^ Ha, ha! Better for him that he had never been 
born." And with a satanic laugh she turned away and left 
him. 

Strong nerved as he was, Eustace felt his flesh creep. 
The hag's parting words hinted at some mysterious and 
darkly horrible fate in store for his unfortunate cousin. His 
own precarious position brought a sense of this doul)lyhome 
to him. He remembered how jubilant poor Tom had been 
over the outbreak of the war. This, then, was to be the end 
of It. Instead of paying off old scores with his hated and 
despised foes, he had himself walked blindfold into the trap, 
and was to be sacrificed in some frightful manner to their 
vengeance. 



At the Home of the Serpents. 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 



*' I WALK IN SHADOW." 

Eanswyth was back again in her old home — living her 
old life, as in the times that were past — but alone. 

When she had announced her intention of returning to 
Anta's Kloof, her friends had received the proposition with 
incredulity — when they saw that she was determined, with 
dismay. 

It was stark lunacy, they declared. She to go to live on 
an out-of-the-way farm, alone ! There was not even a 
neighbour for pretty near a score of miles, all the surround- 
ing stock-farmers having trekked into laager. The Gaikas 
were reported more restless than ever, nor were symptoms 
wanting that they were on the eve of an outbreak. The 
Gcaleka campaign had fired their warlike spirits, but had 
failed to convey its accompanying warning, and those " in 
the know" asserted that the savages might rise any minute 
and make common cause with their countrymen across the 
Kei. And in the face of all this, here was Eanswyth pro- 
posing to establish herself on a lonely farm bordering on 
the very location of the plotting and disaffected tribesmen. 
Why, it was lunacy — rank suicide ! 

The worst of it was that nobody on earth had the power 
to prevent her from doing as she chose. Her own family 
were Western Province people and lived far up in the 
Karroo. Had they been ever so willing, it would take them 
nearly three weeks to arrive — by which time it might be too 
late. But Eanswyth did not choose to send for any one. 
She wanted to be alone. 

" You need not be in the least alarmed on my account," 
she had said to the Hostes in answer to their reiterated ex- 
postulations. *' Even if the Gaikas should rise, I don't 
believe they would do me the slightest harm. The 
people on Nteya's location know me well, and the old chief 
and I used to be great friends. I feel as if I must go to ray 



/ WALK IN SHADOW." 



207 



old home again — and — don't think me ungracious, but it 
will do me good to be entirely alone." 

" That was how poor Milne used to argue," said Hoste 
gravely. " Bat they killed him all the same." 

" Yes," she replied, mastering the quick sharp spasm 
which the allusion evoked. " But they were Gcal^kas — not 
our people, who knew him." 

Hoste shook his head. 

" You are committing suicide," he said. "And the worst 
of it is we have no power on earth to prevent you." 

" No, you haven't," she assented with the shadow of a 
smile. " So let me go my own way with a good grace. 
Besides, with old Josane to look after me, I can't come to 
much harm." 

She had telegraphed to her late husband's manager at 
Swaanepoel's Hoek, requesting him to send the old cattle- 
herd to her at once. Three days later Josane arrived, and 
having commissioned Hoste to buy her a few cows and some 
slaughter sheep, enough to supply her modest household. 
Eanswyth had carried out her somewhat eccentric plan. 

The utter loneliness of the place — the entire absence of 
life — the empty kraals and the silent homestead, all this is 
inexpressibly grateful to her crushed and lacerated spirit. 
And in the dead silence of those uninhabited rooms she 
conjures up the sweetest, the holiest memories. Her soli- 
tude, her complete isolation, conveys no terror — no spark of 
misgiving, for it is there that her very life has been lived. 
The dead stillness of the midnight hour, the ghostly creak- 
ing of a board, the hundred and one varying sounds be- 
gotten of silence and darkness, inspire her with no alarm, 
for her imagination peoples these empty and deserted rooms 
with life once more. 

She can see him as she saw him in life, moving about the 
place on different errands bent. There is his favourite 
chair ; there his place at the table. His personahty seems 
still to pervade the whole house, his spirit to hover around 
her, to permeate her whole being, here as it could nowhere 
else. But it was on first entering his room, which still con- 
tained a few possessions too cumbersome or too worthless 
to carry away — a trunk or two and a few old clothes — here 
it was that that awful and vivid contrast struck her in over- 
whelming force. 

What an expression there is in such poor and useless 



2o8 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



relics — a glove, a boot, a hat, even an old j)ipc — when we 
know we shall never see the owner again, parted perhaps bv 
circumstances, by distance, by death. Do not such things 
seem verily to speak — and to speak eloquently — to bring 
before our eyes, to sound within our cars, the vision, the 
voice of one whom we shall never behold again ? Ah ! do 
they not ! 

Standing for the first time alone in that room, Eansvvyth 
felt as though her heart had been broken afresh. She fell 
prone among those poor and worthless relics, pressing them 
passionately to her lips, while her tears fell like rain. If 
ever her lover's spirit could come back to her, surely it 
would be in that room. 

"O Eustace, my darling, my first and only love ! " mur- 
mured the stricken creature, lying face to the very floor in 
the agony of her grief, "Come to me from the shadowy 
spirit land ! O God, send him to me, that I may look 
upon him once more ! " 

The shadows deepened within the room. Raising her 
head she gazed around, and the expression of pitiable eager- 
ness on the white drawn face was fearful to behold. 

" Oh, dear Lord, if our love is so wicked are we not pun- 
ished enough ! O God, show him to me again if but for 
a moment ! The ghastliest terrors of the grave are sweet- 
ness to me, if I may but see him once — my dear dead love ! 
Eustace, Eustace ! You cannot come to me, but I shall 
soon go to you ! Is it a loving God or a fiend that tortures 
us so ? Ah-h ! " 

Her heart-broken paroxysm could go no further. No 
apparition from another world met her eyes as they strove 
to penetrate the deepening shadows as though fully expect- 
ing one. The exhaustion tliat supervened was beneficial 
to a degree, in that it acted as a safety valve to her fearfully 
overwrought brain. Her very mind was in danger. 

For nearly a fortnight has Eanswyth thus dwelt, and so 
far from beginning to tire of her solitude, she hugs it closer 
to her. She has received visits from the Hostes and other 
friends who, reckoning that a couple of days of solitude 
would sicken her of it altogether, had come with the object 
of inducing her to return to the settlement. Besides, Christ- 
mas was close at hand and, her bereavement notwithstanding, 
it did not somehow seem good that ?hc should spend that 



"/ WALK IN shadow:' 



309 



genial season alone and in a position not altogether free 
from danger. But their kindly efforts proved futile ; indeed, 
Eanswyth could hardly disguise the fact that thetF visits 
were unwelcome. She preferred solitude at such a time, 
she said. Then Mrs. Hoste Ind undertaken to lecture her. 
It could not be right to abandon one's self so entirely, even to 
a great sorrow, purred that complacent matron. It seemed 
somehow to argue a want of Christian resignation. It was 
all very well up to a certain point, of course; but beyond 
that, it lookt^d like flying in the face of Providence. And 
Eanswyth had turned her great eyes with such a blank and 
bewildered look upon the speaker's face, as if wondering 
what on earth the woman could be talking about, that Mrs. 
Hoste, good-hearted though shallow, had dropped her r61e 
of preacher then and there. 

One thing that struck Eanswyth as not a little strange was 
that hardly a Kafir had been near the place, whereas for- 
merly their du.iky neighbours had been wont to visit them 
on one pretext or another enough and to spare, the latter 
especially, in poor Tom's opinion. She had sent word to 
Nteya, inviting him to visit her and have a talk, but the old 
chief had made some excuse, promising, however, to come 
over and see her later. All this looked strange and, taken 
in conjunction with the fact that there had been war-dancing 
again in Nteya's location, suspicious. So thought at any 
rate Josane, who gave vent to his misgivings in no uncertain 
tone. But Eanswyth treated his warnings with perfect un- 
concern. She would not move, she declared. She was 
afraid of nobody. If Josane was, he might go if he liked. 
To which the staunch old fellow would reply that he feared 
no man, black or white ; that he was there to take care of 
her, and there he would stay, adding, with a growl, that it 
might be bad for Nteya's, or anybody else's, people should 
they attempt to molest her. 

It wanted but a day or two to Christmas — but an hour to 
sunset. It was one of tliose marvellous evenings not un- 
common in South Africa, as well as in the southern parts of 
Europe— one of those evenings when sky and earth alike 
are vivid with rich colouring, and the cloudless blue of the 
heavens assumes a deeper azui s still, and there is a dreamy 
enchantment in the ait, and every sight, every sound, toned 
and mellowed by distance, blends in perfect harmony with 
the changing glories of the dying day. Then the sun goes 



2IO 



'TWEEN SMOW AND FIRE. 



down in a flaming rainbow of rare tints, each more subtle 
than the other, each more gorgeous, and wiihal more deli- 
cate than the last. 

The enchantment of the hour was upon Eanswyth to the 
full — the loneliness, the sense of absolute solitude, cut off 
from the outer world, alone with her dead. Wandering 
down to the gate of the now tenaniless ostrich camp she is 
going over the incidents of that last day^ — that first and that 
last day, for it was that upon which they had discovered to 
each other their great and all-absorbing love. " The last day 
we shall have together," he had said — and it was so. She 
can vividly conjure up his presence at her side now. 
Every word he said, every careless gesture even, comes 
back to her now. Here was the gate where they had 
stood feeding the great birds, idly chatting about nothing 
in particular, and yet how full were both their hearts even 
then. And that long sweet embrace so startlingly inter- 
rupted ! Ah ! what a day that had been ! One day out of 
a whole life-time. Standing here on this doubly hallowed 
spot, it seems' to her that an eternity of unutterable 
wretchedness would not be too great a price to pay for just 
that one day over again. But he is gone. Whether their 
love had been the most sacred that ever blessed the lot of 
mortal here below, or the unhallowed, inexorably forbidden 
thing it really is, matters nothing now. Death has decided, 
and from his arbitration there is no appeal. 

She throws herself upon the sward: there in the shade of 
the mimosa trees where they had sat together. All Nature 
is calm and at peace, and, with the withdrawal of man, the 
wild creatures of the earth s*iem to have reclaimed their own. 
A little duiker buck steps daintly along beneath the thorn 
fence of the ostrich cam]), and the grating, metallic cackle 
of the wild guinea-fowl is followed by the appearance of 
quite a large covey of those fine game birds, pecking away, 
though ever with an air of confirmed distrust, within two 
score yards of the pale, silent mourner, seated there. The 
half-whistling, half-twanging note of the yellow thrush 
mingles with the melodious call of a pair of blue cranes 
stalking along in the grass, and above the drowsy, meas- 
ured hum of bees storing sweetness from the flowering 
aloes, there arises the heavier boom of some great scarabeus 
winging his way in blundering, aimless fashion athwart the 
balmy and sensuous evening air. 



"/ WALK IN SHADOW." 



211 



The sun sinks to the western ridge — the voices of ani- 
mal and insect life swell in harmonious chorus, louder and 
louder, in that last hour of parting day. His golden 
beams, now horizontal, sweep the broad and rolling plains 
in a sea of fire, throwing out the rounded spurs of the 
Kabousie Hills into so many waves of vivid green. Then 
the flaming chariot of day is gone. 

And in the unearthly hush of the roseate afterglow, that 
pale, heart-broken mourner wends her way home. Home ! 
An empty house, where the echo of a footfall sounds 
ghostly and startling; an abode peopled with reminis- 
cences of the dead — meet companionship for a dead and 
empty heart. 

Never so dead — never so empty — as this evening. Never 
since the first moment of receiving the awful news has she 
felt so utterly crushed, so soul-weary as here to-night. 
" How was it all to end ? " had been their oft-spoken thought 
— here on this very spot. The answer had come now. 
Death had supplied it. But — how was this to end ? 

The glories of departing day were breaking forth into 
ever varying splendours. The spurs of the mountain range, 
now green, now gold, assumed a rich purple against the 
flaming red of the sky. The deepening afterglow flushed 
and quivered, as the scintillating eyes of heaven sprang 
forth into the arching vault— not one by one, but in whole 
groups. Then the pearly shades of twilight and the cool, 
moist fragrance of the falling night. 

Why was the earth so wondrously lovely — why should 
eyes rest upon such semi-divine splendour while the heart 
was aching and bursting ? was the unspoken cry that went 
up from that heart-weary mourner standing there alone gaz- 
ing forth into the depths of the star-gemmed night. 

Stay ! What is that tongue of flame suddenly leaping 
forth into the darkness ? Another and another — and lo ! by 
magic, from a score of lofty heights, red fires are gushing 
upward into the black and velvety gloom, and as the 
ominous beacons gather in flaming volume roaring up to a 
great height, the lurid glow of the dark firmament is re- 
flected dully upon the slumbering plains. 

A weird, far-away chorus floats upon the stillness, now 
rising, now falling. Its boding import there is no mistak- 
ing. It is the gathering cry of a barbarian host. The 
Gaika location is up in arms. -Heavens ! What is to 



213 



'TWEEN SXOW AND FIRE. 



become of this delicate woman here, alone and unprotected, 
exposed to the full brunt of a savage rising — and all that it 
means ? 

Eanswyth is standing on the stoep, her ej'es fixed upon 
the appalling phenomenon, but in their glance is no shadow 
of fear. Death has no terrors for her now ; at peril she can 
afford to laugh. Her lips are even curving into a sweet, sad 
smile. 

"Just as it was that night," she exclaims. " The parallel 
is complete. Blaze on red signals of death — and when 
destruction does break forth let it begin with me ! I will 
wait for it, welcome it, for I walk in shadow now— will 
welcome it here on this spot where we stood that sweet and 
blessed night — here where our hearts first met — here where 
mine is breaking now ! " 

Her voice dies away in a sob. She sinks to tlie ground. 
The distant glare of the war-fires of the savages falls fully 
upon that prostrate figure lying there in the abandonment 
of woe. It lights up a very sacrifice. The rough stones of 
the sioep are those of an altar — the sacrifice a broken 
heart. 

Here is where we stood that night together," she mur- 
murs, pressing her lips to the hard, cold stones. " It is just 
as it was then. Oh, my love — my love, come back to me ! 
Come back — even from the cold grave ! " 

"Eanswyth !" 

The word is breathed in a low, unsteady voice. Every 
drop of blood within her turns to ice. It is answered at 
last, her oft- repeated prayer. She is about to behold him. 
Does she not shrink from it ? Not by a hair's-breadtli. 

"Let me see you, my love," she murmurs softly, not 
daring to move lest the spell should be broken. " Where — 
where are you ? " 

" Where our hearts first met — there they meet again. 
Look up, my sweet one. I am here." 

She does look up. In the red and boding glare of those 
ominous war-fires she sees him as she saw him that night. 
She springs to her feet — and a loud and thrilling cry goes 
forth upon the darkness. 

*' Eustace — Eustace ! Oh, my love ! Spirit ox flesh — 
you shall not leave me I At last — at last ! " 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 



FROM DEATH AND— TO DEATH. 

She realised it at length— realised that this was no 
visitant from the spirit world conjuired up in answer to her 
impassioned prayer, but her lover himself, alive and un- 
harmed. She had thrown herself upon his breast, and 
clung to him with all her strength, sobbing passionately- 
clung to him as if even then afraid that he might vanish as 
suddenly as he had appeared. 

" My love, my love," he murmured in that low magnetic 
tone which she knew so well, and which thrilled her to the 
heart's core. " Calm those poor nerves, my darling, and rest 
on the sweetness of our meeting. We met— our hearts met 
first on this very spot. Now they meet once more, never 
again to part," 

Still her feeling was too strong for words ; she could only 
cling to him in silence, while he covered her face and soft 
hair with kisses. A moment ago she was mourning him as 
dead, was burying her heart in his unknown and far-away 
grave, and lo, as by magic, he stood before her, and she was 
safe in his embrace. A moment ago life was one long vista 
of blank, agonising grief ; now the joys of heaven itself 
might pale before the unutterable bliss of this meeting. 

Unlawful or not as their love might be, there was some- 
thing solemn, almost sacred, in its intense reality. The 
myriad eyes of heaven looked down from the dark vault 
above, and the sullen redness of the war-fircs flashing from 
the distant heights shed a dull, threatening glow upon those 
two, standing there locked in each other's embrace. Then 
once more the wild, weird war-cry of the savage hosts swelled 
forth upon the night. It was an awesome and fearful back- 
ground to this picture of renewed life and bliss. 

Such a reunion can best be left to the imagination, for it 
will bear no detailment. 

"Why did you draw my very heart out of me like thia» 

•»3 



214 



TWEEN SNOW AND J-ZA't 



Eustace, my life?" she said at last, raising her head. 

When they told me you were dead I knew it would not be 
long before I joined you. I could not have endured this 
living death much longer." 

There were those who pronounced Eanswyth Carhayes 

to be the most beautiful woman they had ever beheld who 

had started with amazement at such an apparition on an 
oat-of-the-way Kafifrarian farm. A grand creature, they 
declared, but a trifle too cold. They would have marvelled 
that they had ever passed such a verdict could they but 
have seen her now, her splendid eyes burning into those of 
her lover in the starlight as she went on : 

"You are longing to ask what I am doing here in this 
place all alone and at such a time. This. I came here as 
to a sanctuary : a sacred spot which enshrined all the dearest 
memories of you. Here in silence and in solitude I 
could conjure up visions of you— could see you walking 
beside me as on that last day we spent together. Here I 
could kneel and kiss the floor, the very earth which your 
feet had trod ; and— O Eustace, my very life, it M^as a 

riven and a shattered heart I offered up daily— hourly 

at the shrine of your dear memory." 

Ht;r tones thrilled upon his ear. Never had life held 
such a delirious, intoxicating moment. To the cool, philo- 
sophical, strong-nerved man it seemed as if his very senses 
were slipping away from him under the thrilling love-tones 
of this stately, beautiful creature nestling within his arms, 
Agam their lips met— met as they had met that first time- 
met as if they were never again to part. 

" Inkose ! " 

The sudden sonorous interruption caused Eanswyth to 
start as if she had been shot, and well it might. Her lover 
however, had passed through too many strange and stirring 
experiences of late to be otherwise than sligluly and mo- 
mentarily disconcerted, 

A dark figure stood at the lowest step of the sioep, one 
hand raised in the air. after the dignified and graceful 
manner of native salutation. 

" Greeting, Josane," he replied. 

"Now do mine eyes behold a goodly sight," went on the 
old Kafir with animation, speaking in the pleasing figurative 
hypei bolo of his race. " My father and friend is safe home 
once more. We have mourned him as dead and he is alive 



FROM DEATH AND— TO DEATH. 



215 



again. He has returned to gladden our hearts and delight 
our eyes. It is good — it is good." 

" How did you know I had returned, Josane ? " 

Had there been light enough they would have detected 
the most whimsical smile come over the old Kafir's face as 
he replied : 

" Am I not the Inkosikazi s watch-dog ? What sort of a 
watch-dog is it that permits a footstep to approach from out- 
side without his knowledge? " 

" You are, indeed, a man, Josane — a man among men, 
and true to those who trust you," replied Eustace, in that 
tone of thorough friendship and'regard which had enabled 
him to win so effectually the confidence of the natives. 

The old cattle- herd's face beamed with gratification, 
which, however, was quickly dashed with anxiety. 

" Look yonder," he said. " There is trouble in the 
Gaika location to-night. Take the Inkosikazi and leave — 
this very night. I know what I say." Then, marking the 
other's hesitation, " I know what I say," he repeated im- 
pressively. " Am I not the Inkosikazi' s watch-dog ? Am I 
not her eyes and ears ? Even now there is one approaching 
from Nteya's kraal." 

He had struck a listening attitude. Eustace, his recent 
experiences fresh in his mind, felt depressed and anxious, 
gazing expectantly into the darkness, his hand upon the 
butt of his revolver. 

" Halt ! Who comes there ? " he cried in the Xosa tongue. 

" A friend, Ixeshane ! " came the prompt reply, as a 
dark form stepped into view. 

Now that life was worth living again, Eanswyth felt all 
her old apprehensions return ; but she had every confidence 
in her lover's judgment and the fidelity of her trusted old 
retainer. 

" Hau, Ixeshane ! You are here ; it is good," said the 
new arrival in the most matter-of-fact way, as though he 
were not wondering to distraction how it was that the man 
who had been reported slain in the Bomvana country by 
the hostile Gcalekas, should be standing there alive and 
well before him. " I am here to warn the Inkosikazi. She 
must leave, and at once. The fire-tongues of the Amaxosa 
are speaking to each other ; the war-cry of the Ama Ngqika 
is cleaving the night." 

"We have seen and heard that before, Ncandiiku," an- 



3l6 



'TWEEN SNOW AND F!RE. 



swered Eustace, recognizing the new arrival at once. "Yet 
your people would not harm us. Are we not friends ? " 
The Kafir shook his head. 

"Who can be called friends in war time?" he said. 
" There are strangers in our midst — strangers from another 
land. Who can answer for them ? I am Ncandiiku, the 
brother of Nteya. The chief will not have his friends 
harmed at the hands of strangers. But they must go. Look 
yonder, and lose no time. Get your horses and take the 
Inkosikazi, and leave at once, for the Ama Ngqika have re- 
sponded to the call of their brethren and the Paramount 
Chief, and have risen to arms, llie land is dead." 

There was no need to follow the direction of the Kafir's 
indication. A dull, red glare, some distance off, shone forth 
upon the night; then another and another. Signal fires? 
No. These shone from no prominent height, but from the 
plain itself. Then Eustace took in the situation in a mo- 
ment. The savages were beginning to fire the deserted 
homesteads of the settlers. 

"Inspan the buggy quickly, Josane," he said. "And, 
Ncandiiku, come inside for a moment. I will find basela* 
for you and Nteya." But the voice which had conveyed 
such timely warning responded not. The messenger had 
disappeared. 

The whole condition of affairs was patent to Eustace's 
mind. Nteya, though a chief whose status was not far in- 
ferior to that of Sandili himself, was not all-powerful. 
Those of his tribesmen who came from a distance, and were 
not of his own clan, would be slow to give implicit obedi- 
ence to his "word," their instincts for slaughter and pillage 
once fairly let loose, and so he had sent to warn Eanswyth. 
Besides, it was probable that there were Gcal^kas among 
them. Ncandiiku's words, "strangers from another land," 
seemed to point that way. He put it to Josane while har- 
nessing the horses. The old man emitted a dry laugh. 

" There are about six hundred of the Gcal^ka fighting 
men in Nteya's location to-night," he replied. "Every 
farmhouse in the land will be burned before the morning. 
Wkau, Ixeshane ! Is there any time to lose now ? " 

Eustace realized that assuredly there was not. But in- 
spanning a pair of horses was, to his experienced hand, the 
work of a very few minutes indeed. 

* Best rendered by ihe familiar term " backshish." 



FROM DEArH AND— TO DEATH. 



217 



" Who is their chief ? " he asked, tugging at the last strap. 
" Sigcau?" 

" No. Ukiva." 

An involuntary exclamation of concern escaped Eustace. 
For the chief named had evinced a marked hostility 
towards himself during his recent captivity; indeed, this 
man's influence had more tlian once almost turned the scale 
in favour of his death. No wonder he felt anxious. 

Eanswyth had gone into the house to put a few things to- 
gether, having, with an effort, overcome her reluctance to 
let him out of her si^ht during the few minutes required for 
inspanning. Now she reappeared. 

" I am ready, Eustace," she said. 

He helped her to her seat and was beside her in a mo- 
ment. 

" Let go, Josane ! " he cried. And the Kafir, standing 
away from the horses' heads, uttered a sonorous farewell. 

"What will become of him, dear ? " said Eanswyth, as 
they started off at a brisk pace. 

" He is going to stay here and try and save the house. 
I'm afraid he won't be able to, though. They are bound to 
burn it along with the others. And now take the reins a 
moment, dearest. I left my horse hitched up somewhere 
here, because I wanted to come upon you unawares. I'll 
just take off the saddle and tie it on behind." 

" But what about the horse ? Why not take him with 
us ? " 

" Josane will look after him. I won't take him along now, 
because— well, it's just on the cards we might have to make 
a push for it, and a led horse is a nuisance. Ah— there he 
is," as a low whinnying was heard on their left front and 
duly responded to by tlie pair in harness. 

In less than two minutes he had tlie saddle secured at the 
back of the buggy and was beside her again. It is to be 
feared Eustace drove very badly that night. Had the 
inquiry been made, candour would have compelled him to 
admit that he had never driven so badly in his life. 

Eanswyth, for her part, was quite overcome with the thrill- 
ing, intoxicating happiness of the hour. But what an hour ! 
They were fleeing through the night— fleeing for their 
lives — their way lighted by the terrible signal beacons of the 
savage foe — by the glare of flaming homesteads fired by his 
ravaging and vengeful hand. But then, he who was dead 



2l8 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



is alive again, and is beside her — they two fleeing together 
through the night. 

" Darling," she whispered at last, nestling up closer to 
him. " Why did they try to kill me by telling me you were 
dead ? '* 

" They had every reason to suppose so. Now, what do 
you think stood between me and certain death?" 
" What ? " 

" Your love — not once, but twice. The silver box. See. 
Here it is, where it has ever been — over my heart. Twice 
it turned the point of the assegai." 

" Eustace ! " 

" It is as I say. Your love preserved me for yourself." 

" Oh, my darling, surely then it cannot be so wicked — so 
unlawful ! " she exclaimed with a quiver in her voice. 

" I never believed it could," he replied. 

Up till then, poor Tom's name had not been mentioned 
Both seemed to avoid allusion to it. Now, however, that 
Eustace had to narrate his adventures and escape, it could 
not well be avoided. But in describing the strange im- 
promtu duel between the Gcal^ka warrior and his unfortu- 
nate cousin, he purposely omitted any reference to the 
latter's probable hideous fate, leaving Eanswyth to suppose he 
had been slain then and there. It was impossible that she 
should have been otherwise than deeply moved. 

" He died fighting bravely, at any rate," she said at 
last. 

" Yes. Want of courage was never one of poor Tom's 
failings. All the time we were out he was keener on a fight 
than all the rest of the command put together." 
There was silence after this. Then at last : 
" How did you escape, Eustace, my darling ? You have 
not told me." 

" Through paying ransom to that same Hlangani and 
paying pretty stiffly too. Four hundred and fifty head of 
good cattle was the figure. Such a haggle as it was, too. 
It would have been impolitic to agree too quickly. Then, I 
had to square this witch-doctress, and I daresay old Kreli 
himself will come in for some of the pickings. From motives 
of policy we had to carry out the escape as if it was a genu- 
ine escape and not a put-up job — but they managed it all 
right — took me across the river on some pretext or other 
and then gave me the opportunity of leg-bail. As soon as 



FROM DEATH AND— TO DEATH. 



219 



the war is over Hlangani will come down on me for the 
cattle." 

" How did you know I was back at Anta's Kloof, dear- 
est ? Did the Hostes tell you } " said Eanswyth at last. 

" No. I met that one-eyed fellow Tomkins just outside 
Komgha. I only waited while he called up two or three 
more to back his statement and then started off here as hard 
as ever I could send my nag over the ground." 

The journey was about half accomplished. The buggy 
bowled merrily along — and its occupants — alone together in 
the warm balmy southern night — began to wish the settle- 
ment was even further off. They were ascending a long rise. 

" Hallo, what's up ? " exclaimed Eustace suddenly, whip- 
ping up his horses, which he had been allowing to walk 
up the hill. 

The brow of the hill was of some altitude and commanded 
a considerable view of the surrounding country. But the 
whole of the latter was lit up by a dull and lurid glow. At 
intervals apart burned what looked like several huge and 
distant bonfires. 

" They mean business this time," said Eustace, reining 
in a moment to breathe his horses on the brow of the rise. 
" Look. There goes Hoste's place. That's Bradfield's over 
there — and beyond that must be Oesthuisen's. Look at 
them all blazing merrily; and — by jingo — there goes Draai- 
bosch ! " 

Far and wide for many a mile the country was aglow with 
blazing homesteads. Evidently it was the result of precon- 
certed action on the part of the savages. The wild yelling 
chorus of the barbarous incendiaries, executing their fierce 
war-dances around their work of destruction, was borne dis- 
tinctly upon the night. 

" The sooner we get into Komgha the better now,'* he 
went on, sending the buggy spinning down the long declivity 
which lay in front. At the bottom of this the road was 
intersected by a dry water course, fringed with bush; 
otherwise the veldl was for the most part open, dotted with 
straggling clumps of mimosa. 

Down went the buggy into the dry sandy drift. Suddenly 
the horses shied violently, then stopped short with a jerk 
which nearly upset the vehicle. A dark form, springing 
panther-like, apparently from the ground, had seized the 
reins. 



220 



'TlVEKh' SNOW AND FIRE. 



Instinctively Eustace recognised that this was no time for 
parleying. Quick as thought he drew his revolver and fired. 
The assailant relaxed his hold, staggered, spun round, then 
fell heavily to the earth. The horses, thus released, tore 
wildly onward, mad with terror. 

A roar and a red, sheeting flash split tlie darkness behind. 
The missiles hummed overhead, one of them tearing a hole 
in the wide brim of Eanswylh's hat. This aroused all the 
demon in the blood of her companion. Standing up in his 
seat, regardless of prudence, he pointed his revolver at the 
black onrushing mass discernible in the starlight, and fired 
three shots in rapid succession. A horrible, shrill, piercing 
scream, showed that they had told with widespread and 
deadly effect. 

" Ha ! Bulala abehingu ! " * howled the exasperated bar- 
barians. And dropping flat on the ground they poured 
another volley into the retiring vehicle. 

But the latter had gained some distance now. The horses, 
panic-stricken and well-nigh unmanageable, were tearing up 
the hill on the other side of the drift, and it was all their 
driver could do in the darkness to keep them in the track. 
The buggy swayed fearfully, and twice catching a wheel in 
an ant-heap was within an ace of turning over. 

Suddenly one of the horses stumbled heavily, then fell. 
All his driver's efforts to raise him were useless. The poor 
beast had been struck by a bullet, and lay, feebly struggling, 
the blood pouring from a jagged wound in his flank. 

The black bolt of despair shot through Eustace's heart. 
There was a feeble chance of escape for Eanswylh, but a 
very feeble one. Of himself he did not think. Quickly he 
set to work to cut loose the other horse. 

But the traditional sagacity of that quadruped, as is 
almost invariably the case, failed in an emergency. He 
plunged and kicked in such wise as to hinder seriously, if 
not defeat, every effort to disengage him from the harness. 
Eustace, his listening powers at their utmost tension, caught 
the light pit-pat of the pursuers' footsteps racing up the hill 

in the darkness. They would be upon him before- 

Ha ! The horse was loose, 

*' Quick, Eanswyth. Mount ! It is your only chance ! " 
he said, shortening the reins into a bridle and holding them 
for her. 

" I will not." 

* Death to the whites. 



FROM DEATJI AND— TO DEATH. 



221 



" Quick, quick ! Every moment lost is a life ! " 

" I will not. We will die together, I will not live with- 
out you," and the heroic flash in the grand eyes was visible 
in the starlight. 

The stealthy footsteps were now plainly audible. They 
could not have been two hundred yarda distant. Suddenly 
the horse, catching a renewed access of panic, plucked the 
reins from Eustace's hand, and careered wildly away into 
the ve/dt. The last chance of escape was cut off. They 
must die together now. Facing round, crouching low be- 
hind the broken-down vehicle, they listened for the approach 
of the pursuers. 

All the bitterness of the moment was upon those two — 
upon him especially — croucliing there in the dark and lonely 
ve/d^. Their reunion was only to be a reunion in death. 

The last dread act was drawing on. The stealthy steps 
of the approaching foe were now more distinctly audible. 
With a deadly and vengeful fire at his heart, Eustace pre- 
pared to sell their lives as dearly as ever life was sold. 

" We need not fear, my sweet one," whispered the heroine 
at his side. " We are dying together." 

Nearer — nearer, came those cat-like footfalls. Then they 
ceased. The pulses of the two anxious listeners beat with an 
intense and surging throb of expectation in the dead silence. 

But instead of those stealthy feet, swift to shed blood, 
there was borne upon the night the sound of horses* hoofs. 
Then a crash of firearms, and a ringing cheer. No savage 
war-cry that, but a genuine British shout. 

" That you, Milne ? " cried a familiar voice. "All right: 
keep cool, old man. We shan't hit you by mistake. How 
many are there ? " 

" I don't know. Better not tackle them in the dark, 
Hoste. Who is with you ? " 

" Some Police. But where are the niggers ? " 

Where indeed ? Savages have no stomach for facing un- 
known odds. Their late assailants had prudently made 
themselves scarce. 

" We seem to be only just in time, anyway ? " said Hoste, 
with a long whistle of consternation as he realised the criti- 
cal position of affairs. "Is Mrs. Carhayes all right.'" he 
added anxiously. 

"Quite, thanks, Mr. Hoste," replied Eanswyth. "But 
you are, as you say, only just in time." 



222 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Two of the Police horses were inspanned to the buggy, the 
men mounting behind comrades, and the party set forth. 
It would not do to linger. The enemy might return in force 
at any moment. 

Their escape had indeed been a narrow one. It was only 
late in the afternoon that Hoste had, by chance, learned 
from a trustworthy source that the Gatkas meant to rise that 
night. Horror stricken, he had rushed off to the officer m 
command of the Mounted Police to beg for some troopers 
as a protective escort in order to bring Eanswyth away from 
her lonely and perilous situation. An experienced sergeant 
and twenty-five men had been immediately ordered out- 
arriving in the very nick of time, as we have seen. 

"Well, we are all burnt out now, anyway," said Hoste as 
they journeyed along as rapidly as possible. " Look at my 
old place, what a flare up it's making. And the hotel at 
Draaibosch ! It's making a bigger blaze than all." 

" That's McDonald's *Cape Smoke,' "* laughed the po- 
lice sergeant. 

It was a weird and awesome sight. The whole country 
was literally in ablaze— the murk of the reddened smoke of 
burning homesteads obliterating the stars. And ever and 
anon the fierce, tumultuous thunder of a distant war-dance 
was borne upon the air, with the vengeful shouts of excited 
savages, beginning their orgy of torch and assegai. 

*An inferior quality of Cape brandy is thus popularly termed. 



\ 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

EUSTACE BECOMES UNPOPULAR. 

The state of excitement prevailing in Komgha during the 
period of hostilities within the Transkei, was as nothing to 
that which prevailed now that the tide of war was rolling 
around the very outposts of the settlement itself. 

The once sleepy little village had become a vast armed 
camp, garrisoned by regular troops, as well as being the halt- 
ing place for numerous bodies of irregulars — mounted 
burgiiers or Fingo levies — once more called out or volun- 
teering for active service, the latter with more zest this time, 
inasmuch as the enemy was within their very gates. It was 
the headquarters of operations, and all day long — frequently 
all night too — what with expeditions or patrols setting out, 
or returning, or preparing ; the arrival of reinforcements ; 
the flash and trappings of the military element ; the exag- 
gerated and conflicting rumours varying with every half- 
hour that went by. With all these things, we say, the 
sojourners in that favoured settlement found things as lively 
as they could wish. 

There was no mistaking the position of affairs now. The 
Gaikas, whose locations occupied the whole northern half 
of British Kaffraria, the Hlambi clans, who held the rugged 
country along the eastern slopes of the Amatola Mountains, 
were all up in arms. All, that is, save an insignificant frac- 
tion, who applied to the Government for protection as 
' loyals ' ; their loyalty consisting in taking no part in hos- 
tiUties themselves, but aiding with supplies and information 
those who did — as well as affording a refuge in time of need 
to the women and cattle belonging to their hostile country- 
men. Communication with the Colony was practically cut 
off — for, except to strong parties, the King Williamstown 
road was closed. A strong escort, consisting of Police and 
military, was attacked within a few miles of the settlement 
itself, only getting through by dint of hard fighting ; and 
ever in their bushy hiding places, on the surrounding hills. 



224 



'TWEEN SXOIV AND FIRE. 



hovered dark clouds of armed savages ready to swoop down 
upon lonely express-rider or waggon train insufficiently 
guarded. The smoke of ruined homesteads rose from the 
fair plains of British Kaffraria, and by night the lurid sig- 
nals of the hostile barbarians flamed forth from many a 
lofty peak. 

In the Transkei matters were rather worse than before 
the previous three months of campaigning. Very far from 
crushed, the Gcal^kas swarmed back into their oft-swept 
country, and with the aid of their new allies set to work with 
redoubled ardour to make things as lively for the white man 
as they possibly could. This kept nearly all the forces 
then at the front actively employed in that direction, 
leaving the field open to the residue of the Gaikas and 
Hlambis to burn and pillage throughout British Kaffraria at 
their own sweet will. The destruction of property was 
great and widespread. 

Still, on the whole, men seemed rather to enjoy the pre- 
vailing state of things than otherwise, even those who were 
severe losers, strange to say. The colonial mind, adven- 
turous at bottom, dearly loves excitement, once it has drunk 
at that enchanted fountain. Perhaps one of the best illus- 
trations of this is to be found in the numbers who remained, 
and do remain, on at Johannesburg after the collapse, in a 
state of semi-starvation — rather than exchange the liveliness 
and stir of that restless and mushroom town for the surer 
but more sober conditions of '"" offered by the scenes of 
their birth. In British Kaffraria, the renewed outbreak of 
hostilities afforded plenty of excitement, which went as a 
set-off against the aforesaid losses — for the time being at any 
rate. Those who had already taken part in the first cam- 
paign either volunteered for the second or stayed at home 
and talked about both. Though whether he had been out 
or not made no difference as regarded the talking part of it. 
for every man jack you might meet in a day's wandering 
was open to give you his opinion upon what had been done, 
and what hadn't been done ; above all upon what should 
have been done ; in a word, felt himself entirely competent 
to direct the whole of the field operations there and then, 
and without even the traditional minute's notice. 

But however enjoyable all this may have been to society 
at large, as there represented, there was one to whom it was 
intolerably irksome, and that one was Eustace Milne. The 



EUSTACE BECOMES UNPOPULAR. 



225 



reasons for this were diverse. In the first place, in the then 
crowded state of the community, he could hardly ever ob- 
tam an opportunity of talking with Eanswyth alone ; which 
was not wholly without advantage in that it enabled the lat- 
ter to keep up h^^r role ; for if her former sorrowing and 
heart-wrung condition had now become the holiowest mock- 
ery, there was no reason why everybody should be informed 
thereof, but very much the reverse. He could not see her 
alone in the house, for it was always full oi people, and when 
it was not, still, the wails were thin. He could not take her 
for a ride outside the settlement, for in those early days the 
enemy was daring, and did not always keep at a respectful 
distance. It would not do to run any more risks. In the 
next place, all the " talking big," and indeed the talking at 
all, that went on, morning, noon, and night, on the well-worn 
and threadbare topic was wearisome to him. The thing had 
become, in fact, a bore of the first water. But the most dis- 
tasteful side of it all was the notoriety which he himself had, 
all involuntarily, attained. A man who had been reported 
slain, and then turned up safe and sound after having been 
held a prisoner for some weeks by the savage and ordinarily 
ruthless enemy they were then fighting, was sure to attract 
considerable attention throughout the frontier community. 
Friends, neighbours, inljjmates, people they had never seen 
or heard of before, would call on the Hostes all day and 
every day — literally in swarms, as the victim of these atten- 
tions put it — in order to see Eustace, and haply, to extract 
a " yarn " as to his late captivity. If he walked through 
the township some effusive individual was bound to rush at 
him with an " I say. Mister, 'scuse me, but we're told you're 
the man that was taken prisoner by old Kreli. Now, do us 
the favour to step round and have a drink. We don't see 
a man who has escaped from them black devils every day.'" 
And then, under pain of being regarded as churlish to a de- 
gree, he would find him; ^lf compelled to join a group of 
jovial, but under the circumstances excessively unwelcome, 
strangers, and proceed to the nearest bar to be cross ques- 
tioned within an inch of his life, and expected to put away 
sundry " splits " that he did not want. Or those in charge 
of operations, offensive and defensive, would make his ac- 
quaintance and ask him to dine, always with the object of 
eliciting useful information. But to thefie Eustace was very 
reticent and proved, in fact, a sore diJiappointment. He 



226 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FINE. 



had been treated fairly well by his captors. They were sav- 
ages, smarting under a sense of defeat and loss. They 
might have put him to death amid cruel torments ; instead 
of whicii they had given him his liberty. For the said lib- 
erty he had yet to pay — to pay i)retty smartly, too, but this 
was only fair and might be looked upon in the light of ran- 
som. 'He was not going to give any information to their 
detriment merely because, under a doubtfully administered 
system of organization, they had taken up arms against 
the Colony. Besides, as a matter of fact, it was doubtful 
whether he had any information to give. 

So his entertainers were disappointed. Everyone who 
accosted him upon the objectionable topic was disappointed. 
He became unpopular. 

The infinitesimal intellect of the community felt slighted. 
The far from infinitesimal sense of self-importance of the 
said community was wounded to the core. Here was a 
man who had passed through strange and startling experi- 
ences which everyone else was dying to share — at second 
hand. Yet he kept them to himself. Who was he, indeed, 
they would like to know ? Other men, had they gone 
through the same experiences, would have had them on tap 
all day long, for the benefit of all comers, good measure and 
brimming over. This one, on the contrary, was as close 
as death itself. Who was he that he should affect a sin- 
gularity ? 

When a man is unpopular in a small community, he is 
pretty sure before long to be made aware of that fact. In 
this instance there were not wanting individuals the in- 
genuity of whose inventive powers was equal to the occa- 
sion. No wonder Milne was reticent as to what he had 
gone through — hinted these — for it was almost certainly 
not to his credit. It was a singular thing that he should 
have emerged from the ordeal unhurt and smiling, while 
poor Tom Carhayes had been mercilessly butchered. It 
looked fishy — uncommonly so. The more you looked at 
it, the more it began to take on the aspect of a put-up job. 
Indeed it would not be surprising if it turned out that the 
expedition across the Bashi was a cunningly dovised trap, 
not originating with the Kafirs either. The escape of Hoste 
and Payne was part of the programme — no motive existing 
why these two should be put out of the way. 

Motive ? Motive for desiring Tom Carhayes' death ? 



EUSr.lCl-: BECOMES rNPOPilT.AR. 



227 



Well, any fool could see that, one might have thought. 
Was there not a young and beautiful widow in the case — 
who would succeed to the dead man's extremely comfort- 
able possessions, and whom, by this time, any one could see 
with half an eye, was d<;sperately in love with the plotting 
and unscrupulous cou.sin ? That was motive enough, one 
would think. 

It was easy, morever, now to see through the predilection 
of that arch-schemer ifor their native neighbours and now 
enemies. It was all part of the plot. Doubtless he was 
even now sending them secret information and advice in re- 
turn for what they had done for him. It would be surpris- 
ing if he turned out anything better than a Kafir spy, were 
the real truth known. 

These amiable hints and innuendoes, sedulously buzzed 
around, were not long in reaching the object of them. But 
they affected his impenetrable self-p jssession about as much 
as the discharge of a pea-shooter might affect the back of 
the mail-plated armadillo. His philosophical mind saw no 
earthly reason for disturbing itself about any rumours which 
a pack of spiteful idiots might choose to set afloat, Hoste's 
advice to him, to run two or three of these amiable gentry 
to earth and visit them with a good sound kicking, only made 
hiiQ laugh. Why should he mind what anybody said ? If 
people chose to believe it they might — but if they didn't 
they wouldn't, and that was all about it. 

True, he was tempted, on one or two occasions, to follow 
his friend's advice — and that was when Eanswyth was 
brought into the matter. But he remembered that you can- 
not strangle a vi'ide- spread slander by force, and that short 
of the direst necessity the association in an ordinary row of 
any woman's name is justifiable neither by expediency nor 
good taste. But he resolved to get her to move down to 
Swaanepoel's Hoek at the very earliest opportunity. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 



A ROW IN THE CAMP. 

There was just this much to bear out the ill-natured com- 
ments of the scandal-mongers, in that the re-appearance of 
the missing cousin had gone very far towards consoling the 
young widow for the loss of the dead husband. 

The f;»ct was that where her strongest, deepest feelings 
were concerned, Eanswyth, like most other women, was a bad 
actress. The awful poignancy of her suffering had been too 
real — the subsequent and blissful revulsion too overpower- 
ing — for her to be able to counterfeit the one or dissemble 
the other, with anything like a satisfactory result. Those 
who had witnessed the former, now shook their heads, feel- 
ing convinced that they had then mistaken the object 
of it. They began to look at Eanswyth ever so little 
askance. 

But why need she care if they did ? She was indepen- 
dent, young and beautiful. She loved passionately, and her 
love was abundantly returned. A great and absorbing in- 
terest has a tendency to dwarf all minor worries. She did 
not, in fact, care. 

Eustace, thanks to his cool and cautious temperament, 
was a better actor; so good, indeed, that to those who 
watched them it seemed that the affection was mainly, if not 
entirely, on one side. Sometimes he would warn 1 er. 

" For your own sake, dearest," he would say on such rare 
occasions when they were alone togetlier. " For your own 
sake try and keep up appearances a little longer; at any 
rate until we are out of this infernal back-biting, gossipy 
little hole. Remember, you are supposed to be plunged in 
an abyss of woe, and here you are looking as absurdly happy 
as a bird which has just escaped from a cage," 

" Oh, darling, you are right as usual," she would reply, 
trying to look serious. *' But wliat am I to do ? No won- 
der people think T have no heart." 



A ROJV I.V THE CAAfP. 



239 



" And they think right for once, for you have given it 
away — to me. Do keep up appearances, that's all. It 
won't be for much longer." 

Eustace had secured a couple of rooms for his own use 
in one of the neighbouring cottages. The time not spent 
with Eanswyth was got through strolling about the camp, 
or now and then taking a short ride out into the veldt when 
the entourage was reported safe. But this, in deference to 
Eanswyth 's fears, he did but seldom. 

" Why on earth don't you go to the front again, Milne ? " 
this or that friend or acquaintance would inquire. " You 
must find it properly slow hanging on in this hole. I know 
I do. Why, you could easily get a command of Fingo or 
Hottentot levies, or, for the matter of that, it oughtn't to be 
difficult for a fellow with your record to raise a command 
on your own account." 

" The fact is I've had enough of going to the front," 
Eustace would reply. " When I was there I used often to 
wonder what business it was of mine anyway, and when the 
Kifirs made a prisoner of me, my first thought was that it 
served me devilish well right. I give you my word it was. 
And I tell you what it is. When a man has got up every day 
for nearly a month, not knowing whether he'd go to bed 
between his blankets that night or pinned down to a black 
ants' nest, he's in no particular hurry to go and expose him- 
self to a repetition of the process. It tells upon the nerves, 
don't you know." 

" By Jove, I believe you,') replied the other. " I never 
knew Jack Kafir was such a cruel devil before, at least not 
to white men. Well, if I'd gone through what you have, I 
believe I'd give the front a wide berth, too. As it is, I'm 
off in a day or two, I hope." 

" I trust you may meet with better luck," said Eustace. 

One day a considerable force of mounted burghers 
started for the Transkei — a good typical force— hardened, 
seasoned frontiersmen all, well mounted, well armed; in fact, 
a thoroughly serviceable looking corps all round. There 
was the usual complement of spectators seeing them off — 
the usual amount of cheering and hat-waving. On the out- 
skirts of the crowd was a sjirinkling of natives, representing 
divers races and colours. 

All!" exclaimed a tall Gaika, as the crowd dispersed. 
" That will be a hard stone for Kreli to try and cruih. 



'TWEEiX SA'OW AND FIRE. 



If it was the Amapolise* he could knock them to pieces 
with a stick. Mere boys ! " 

" What's that you say, Johnny ? " said a hard-fisted indi- 
vidual, turning threateningly upon the speaker. 

*' Nothing. I only made a rem'ark to my comrade," 
replied the man in his own language. 

" Did ypu ? " said the other walking up to the Kafir and 
looking him straight in the eye. " Then just keep your 
d — d remarks to yourself, Johnny, or we shall quarrel. 
D'you hear?" 

But the Kafir never quailed, never moved. He was a tall, 
powerful native and curried his head grandly. The white 
man, though shorter, looked tough and wiry as wliip cord. 
The crowd, which had been scattering, gathered round the 
pair with the celerity of a mob of London street-cads round 
a fallen cab-horse. 

"What's the row? A cheeky nigger? Give him fits. 
Mister ! Knock him into the middle of next week ! " were 
some of the cries that burst from the group of angry and 
excited men. 

" I have committed no offence," said the Kafir. " I made 
a remark to a comrade, saying what a fine lot of men those 
were." 

"Oh, yes ? Very likely ! " shouted several ironically. 

" See here now. You get out of this," said the first man, 
" Do you hear, get out. Don't say another word — or " 

He did not finish. Stung by a contemptuous look in the 
Kafir's eyes, he dashed his fist full into his face. 

It was a crushing blow — but the native did not fall. Like 
lightning he aimed a blow at his assailant's head with his 
heavy kerrie — a blov/ which would have shattered the skull 
like an egg shell. But the other threw up his arm in time, 
receiving nearly the full force of the blow on that member, 
which dropped to his side completely paralyzed. Without 
attempting to follow up his success the savage sprang back, 
whirling his kerrie round his head. The crowd, taken by 
surprise, scattered before him. 

Only for a moment, though. Like a pack of hounds 
pressed back by a stag at bay they gave way but to close 
up again. In a trice the man's kerrie was struck from his 
grasp, and he was thrown down, beaten, kicked, and very 
roughly handled. 

" Tie up the sc/ielm ! " " Give him six dozen well-laid 
* Police. 



A J?01V IN THE CAMP. 



on'" " Six dozen without counting ! " . Cheeky brute I 
were some of the shouts that accornpamed each kick and 
blow dealt or aimed at the prostrate Kafir, who altogether 
seemed to be having a pretty bad time of it. 

" That's a d— d shame ! " exclaimed a voice behind theni 

All started and turned their heads, some astonished— all 
anery-some perhaps a little ashamed of themselves-towards 
the owner of the voice, a horseman who sat calmly m his 
saddle some twenty yards away— an expression of strong dis- 
gust upon his features. T.ji'i 1 

" What have you got to say to it anyhow, I d hke to know ? 
cried the man who had just struck .the native. ^ 

" What I said before— that it s a d— d shame, repliea 
Eustace Milne unhesitatingly. 

" What's a shame. Mister ? " sneered another. i tiat one 
o' your precious black kids is getting a hidin for his infernal 

'^^"'That it should take twenty men to give it him, and 
that, too, when he's down." . , , ^ . i „ 

" I tell you what it is, friend," said the first speaker 
furiously. " It may take rather less than twenty to give 
you one, and that, too. when you're up " which sally pro- 
voked a blatant guffaw from several of the hearers. 

" I'm not much afraid of that," answered Eustace tran- 
nuilly " But now, seeing that British love of fair play has 
been about vindicated by a score of Englishmen kicking a 
prostrate Kafir, how would it be to let him get up and go ? 
P The keen, biting sarcasm told. The g^^^P' J.^^^^ 
mainly consisted of the low element, actual y did begin to 
look a trifle ashamed of itself. The better element compos- 
ng it gave way and took itself off, as Eustace deliberately 
walked his horse up to the fallen native Tjiere were a few 
muttered jeers about " the nigger's friend' ^nd getting into the 
Assembly on the strength of " blanket votes,"* and so forth, 
but none offered any active opposition except one how- 
ever, and that was the man who had origmated thedisturb- 

Look here," he shouted savagely. " I don't know who 
you are and I don't care. But if you don t take yourself 
off out of this mighty quick, I'll just about knock you into 

^ iv;\h'a°tVrtgM. 'strve him as you did the nigger! " yelled 
* The native franchise, derisively so termed. 



'TWEEX SA'Oll' AJVn FIRE. 



the bystanders, a lot of rowdy hobbledehoys and a contin- 
gent of town loafers whom tlie prospect of an easy going, 
devil-may-care life in the veldt had drawn from the more 
sober avocations of Ijricklaying and waggon-building within 
the Colony, and who, it may be added, distinguished them- 
selves at the seat of liostilities by su(.li a line of drunken 
mutinous insubordination as rendered them an occasion 
of perennial detestation and disgust to their respective 
commanders. These now closed up around their bullying, 
swashbucklering champion, relieving their ardently martial 
spirits by hooting and cat's calls. It was only one man 
against a crowd. Tliey felt perfectly safe. 

"Who sold his mate to the blanked niggers !" they 
yelled. " Ought to be tarred and feathered. Come on, boys ; 
let's do it. Who's for tarring and feathering the Kafir spy ? " 

All cordially welcomed this spicy proposal, but curiously 
enough, no one appeared anxious to b^gin, for they still 
kept some paces behind the original aggressor. That 
worthy, however, seemed to have plenty of fight in him, for 
he advanced upon Eustace unhesitatingly, 

"Come now. Are you going to clear?" he shouted. 
" You're not ? All right. I'll soon make yon." 

A stirrup-iron, wielded by a clever hand, is a terribly 
formidable weapon. Backing his horse a pace or two 
Eustace wrenched loose his stirrup. Quick as lightning, 
it whirled in the air, and as his assailant sprang wildly at him 
down it came. The aggressive bully went to earth like a 
felled ox. 

" Any more takers for the tar-and-feather line of busi- 
ness ? " said Eustace quietly, but with the light of battle in 
his eyes. 

The insulting jeers and the hooting still continued. But 
no one advanced. No one seemed anxious to tackle that 
particulaily resolute looking horseman. 

" Get out of this, you cowardly skunks !" sung out a voice 
behind him, which voice proceeded from another horseman, 
who had ridden up unseen during the /meute. "Twenty to 
one ! Faugh ! For two pins we'll sjambok the lot of 
you." 

" Hallo, Errington ! Where have you dropped from ? 
Thought you were away down in the Colony," said Eustace, 
turning to the new arrival, a fine soldierly looking man of 
about his own nge. in v;hom, he recognized a former Field- 



A ROJV nv 



Captain in Brathwaite's Horse. The crowd had already 
bettun to melt away before this new accession of force. 
"^^Yer-send yer winder to be cleaned ! Stick it m yer 
breeches pocket!" were some of the witticisms yeled back 
by the retreating rowdies, in allusion to the eye-glass worn 

bv the newcomer. , , • 

^" By Jove, Milne, You seem to have been in the wars, 
saidlhe latt;r looking from one to the other of the injured 
parties. " What's the row, eh ? t- « «nW 

^ " It speaks for itself. Nothing much, though I ve only 
been reminding our valiant friends there that fair play is a 
jewel even when its only a Kafir that s concerned. 
^ "Which unsavoury Ethiop seems to have been knocked 
abotit a bit, however," rejoined the other, sticking his glass 
into his eve to examine the fallen native. 

The K^fir, who had raised himself to a fitting posture, 
was now staring stupidly about him as though half dazed^ 
Blood was issuing from his nose and ^^^/h, and one o his 
eves was completely closed up. His assailants had all slunk 
away by no^the arrival upon the scene of this unwelconie 
alTy^iaving turned the scale against any plan they might 
have enterfained of showing further unpleasantness toward 

'V::^l:'"o^^. Caika-s countrymen w^^^^^^^^^^ 
held aloof now came up to the assistance of their friend. 
These gave their version of the story. Eustace listened 

if wata foolish thing to make any remark at such a time 
and in such a place," he said. "It was sure to provoke 
ItrUc Go and get Mm a tot of grog," throwing them a six- 
nence " and then you'd better get away home. 
P "Ttell you what it is, Milne," said Ernngton in a low 
tone "I know that fellow you fioored so neatly. He s 
o?e of the best bruisers in the country, and I'm afraid you 
S::en't's:en"t;.e last of him. You'd beUer keep a b ^ 
lookout as long as you're in this part. He s bound to play 
vou some dog's trick at the earliest opportunity. 
^ " Is he? Well I must try and be ready for him. I sup- 
pose now" we must bring the poor devil round, eb ? He 
seems about stunned." . , 

Er ington had a flask in his pocket dismounting he 
railed the fallen man's head and poured some of the con- 
tents into his mouth. 



234 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



The fellow revived — gradually, stupidly. He had received 
a bad blow, which only a thick slouch hat and a thicker 
skull had saved from being a worse one. 

" Who the h — 1 are you ? " he growled surlily, as he sat 
up. "Oh, I know you," he went on as his glance lit upon 
Eustace. " All right, my fine feller, wait a bit, till I'm all 
right again. You'll be sorry yet for that d — d coward's 
whack you've given me. See if you're not." 

" You 'brought it upon yourself. Why did you try and 
rush me ? " 

" I didn't rush you with a stirrup-iron, did I ? " 

*' No. But see here. If I'm attacked I'm not going to 
leave the choice of my means of defence to the enemy. 
Not much. How would that pan out for an idea in fighting 
old Kreli, for instance ? " 

"Of course," struck in Errington. " That's sound sense, 
and you know it is, Jackson, You and Milne have had a bit 
of a scrimmage and you've got the worst of it. It might 
easily have been the other way. So don't let us have any 
grudge-bearing over it. Take another drink, man," pour- 
ing out a liberal modicum of whiskey into the cup of the 
flask, and shake hands and make it up." 

The man, who was not a bad fellow at bottom, gave a 
growl as he tossed off the tendered potion. Then he held 
out his hand to Eustace. 

" Well, Mister, I don't bear no grudge. If you'll jest say 
you're sorry you hit me " 

" I'll say that with pleasure, Jackson," replied Eustace, 
as they shook hands, " And look here, if you still feel a 
bit groggy on your pins, jump on my horse and ride home. 
I'll walk." 

" No, thanks. I'm all right now. Besides I aint going 
your way. My waggon's outspanned yonder on the flat. 
Good-night." 

" I stand very much indebted to you, Errington, for two 
services rendered," said Eustace as they rode towards the 
township. " And I'm not sure that the last isn't by far the 
most important. 

" Pooh ! not at all, my dear fellow. That howling rabble 
wouldn't have come within twenty yards of you." 

" I don't know about that. The vagabonds were rather 
beginning to realise that twenty to one meant long odds in 
favour of the twenty, when you came up. But the deft way 



A ROW IN THE CAMP. 



235 



in which you smoothed down our friend with the broken 
head was diplomatic to a degree. I hate rows, and the 
knowledge that some fellow is going about day and night 
seeking an opportunity of fastening a quarrel upon you 
unawares is tiresome. Besides, I'm nothing of a boxer, and 
if I were should hate a shindy just as much." 

"I quite agree with you," said the other, who was some- 
thing of a boxer. " To form the centre of attraction to a 
howling, yahooing rabble, making an undignified exhibition 
of yourself bashing and being bashed by some other fellow 
like a couple of butcher's boys in the gutter, is bound to be 
a revolting process whichever way you look at it. Even the 
law of the pistol seems to be an iniprovement on it." 

" I think so, too. It puts men on better terms of equality. 
Any man may become a dead shot and a quick drawer, but 
not one man in ten can fulfil all the conditions requisite 
to becoming a good boxer. The fact is, however, I hate rows 
of any kind, even when only a spectator. When fellows say 
they like them I never altogether believe them." 

Unless they are very young. But the Berserk taint 
soon wears off as you get on into life a bit," said Errington. 

" Well now — I turn off here. Good-evening." 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 



"it is the voice of an oracle." 

Swaanepoel's Hoek, poor Tom Carhayes' other farm, 
was situated in the division of Somerset East, somewhere 
between the Great and Little Fish Rivers. It was rather an 
out-of-the-way place, lying in a mountainous district, 
sparsely inhabited and only reached by rough wheel-tracks 
through narrow, winding poorts. But the scenery was wild 
and romantic to a degree. The bold sweep of bnsh-grown 
slopes, the lofty heights culminating in red iron-bound 
krantzes whose inaccessible hedges afforded nesting place 
for colonies of aasvogels, the thunder of the mountain torrent 
pent up between black rocky walls where the maiden-hair 
fern hung in solid festoons from every crack and cranny, 
the cheerful and abundant sounds of bird and animal life — 
all this rendered the place a wonderfully pleasant and at- 
tractive, if somewhat out-of-the-way, residence. 

To Eanswyth Carhayes, however, this very isolation con- 
stituted an additional charm. The solemn grandeur of the 
soaring mountains, the hush of the seldom trodden valleys, 
conveyed to her mind, after the bustle and turmoil of the 
crowded frontier settlement, the perfection of peace. She 
felt that she could spend her whole life on this beautiful 
spot. And it was her own. 

She had only once before visited the place— shortly after 
her marriage— and then had spent but three or four days there. 
Its beauties had failed at that time to strike her imagination. 
Now it was different. All the world was a Paradise. It 
seemed that there was nothing left in life for her to desire. 

The house was a fair size, almost too large for the over- 
seer and his family. That worthy had asked Eustace 
whether Mrs. Carhayes would prefer that they should 
vacate it. There was a substantial outbuilding, used— or 
rather only half of it was used — as a store, and a saddle and 
harness room. They could make themselves perfectly snug 

3*6 



"IT IS THE VOICE OF AN ORACLE." 237 



in that, if Mrs. Carhayes wished to have the house to her- 
self. . , ^. , 
" I can answer for it : Mrs. Carhayes wishes nothing of 
the sort," he had replied. " In fact, we were talking over 
that very thing on the way down." 

"Sure the children won't disturb her, Mr. Milne? 
" Well, it hasn't looked like it up till now. Those young- 
sters of yours don't seem particularly obstreperous, Bentley, 
and Mrs. Carhayes appears rather to have taken a fancy to 
them than otherwise." 

"If there's a kind sweet lady in this world, Mr. Milne, 
it's Mrs. Carhayes," said the overseer earnestly. " I know 
the wife'll make her right comfortable while she's here. 
She'll save her all bother over housekeeping or anything 
of that sort. Excuse the question, but is she likely to be 
making a long stay ? " 

" I shouldn't wonder. You see, there's nowhere else for 
her to go, and the quiet of this place suits her after all she 
has gone through. And she has gone through some pretty 
lively times, I need hardly tell you." 

1 should think so. Why, what a narrow escape she had 
that time you were bringing her away from Anta's Kloof, 
when the trap broke down. That was a frightful position 
for any lady to be in, in all conscience." 

"Oh, you heard of that, did you ? Ah, I forgot. It was 
in every paper in the Colony— more or less inaccurately 
reported, of course," added Eustace drily, and then the two 
men lit their pipes and chatted for an hour or so about the 
war and its events. ^ 

" By the way, Bentley," said Eustace presently. Talking 
about that outbuilding. I've decided to knock out the par- 
tition — it's only a wooden one — between the two rooms next 
to the storeroom, turn them into one, and use it as a bed- 
room for myself. The house is rather congested with the 
lot of us in it, after all. We might go to work at it this 
afternoon." 

"Certainly, Mr. Milne, certainly," replied the overseer. 
And forthwith the tool-chest was laid under requisition, 
and in a couple of hours the necessary alterations were 
effected. 

This move did not altogether meet with Eanswyth's ap- 
proval, and she expostulated accordingly. 
" Why should you be the one turned out in the cold," she 



238 



TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



said. " There's no earthly necessity for it. You will be 
horribly uncomfortable over there, Eustace, and in winter 
the nights will be quite bitter. Then again, the roof is a 
thatched one, and the first rain we get will start it leaking 
like a sieve. Besides, there's plenty of room in the 
house." 

" It isn't that, you dear, thoughtful, considerate guardian 
angel," he answered. " It isn't quite that, though I put it that 
way for Bentley's behoof. It is something of a concession 
to Mother Grundy, for even here that arch-hag can make 
her upas power felt, and I don't want to have all the tongues 
in the district wagging Uke the tails of a pack of foxhounds 
just unkennelled. We had enough of that at Komgha. So 
Tve arranged that at any rate we shan't be under the same 
roof. See ? " 

"Yes ; but it's ridiculous all the same. As if we weren't 
relations, too." 

" And will be closer relations soon — in fact, the closest. 
I suppose we must wait a year — but that rests with 

yo"-" 

" I don't know. It's an awfully long time," and she 
sighed. Then rather hesitatingly : " Darling, you have 
never yet shown me the little silver box. We are alone 
now, and " 

" And you are dying to see it. Well, Eanswyth, it is 
really a most remarkable coincidence — in fact, almost makes 
a man feel superstitious." 

It was near sundown. A soft, golden light rested upon 
the great slopes, and the cooing of doves floated melodi- 
ously from the mealie lands in the valley. The mountain 
stream roared through its rocky bed at their feet, and among 
the crannies and ledges of a profusion of piled up boulders 
forming miniature cliffs around, a whole colony of bright 
eyed little dasjes * were disporting themselves, scampering 
in and out with a boldness which augured volumes in favour 
of the peaceable aspect of the two human intruders upon 
their sequestered haunt. 

" As you say, the time and place are indeed fitting," said 
Eustace, sitting down upon a boulder and taking the box 
from its place of concealment. " Now, my darling, look 
at this. The assegai point is broken short off, driven with 
such force that it has remained embedded in the hd," 
* The " rock rabbit " — really a species of marmot. 



"JT IS THE VOICE OF AN ORACLE." 239 



It was even as he said. Had the blade been driven 
with a powerful hammer it could not have been more firmly 
wedged within the metal. 

" That was the blow I received during the fight," he went 
on. " The dent at the side of it was done when I stood 
up to the witch-doctress. It did not penetrate much 
that time ; not that the blow wasn't hard enough, for it 
nearly knocked me down, but the assegai was a rotten one 
and made of soft iron, and the point flattened out like a 
Snider bullet. Heavens ! but that was an ordeal — something 
of a nerve-tickler! " he added, with a grave and meditative 
look in his eyes, as if he were mentally re-enacting that 
trying and critical scene. 

Eanswyth shuddered, but said nothing. She nestled 
rather closer to his side, as he continued : 

"Now to open the box — a thing I haven't done since, 
partly from superstitious motives— partly that I intended 
we should do so together — if we ever were to be again 
together, that is." 

He pressed the spring, but it was out of order. It 
needed the wrench of a strong knife blade before the lid 
flew open, 

" Look at that. The assegai point is so firmly wedged 
that it would take a hammer to drive it out — but I propose 
to leave it in — use it as a ' charm ' next war perhaps. Now 
for the letter. It has gone through and through it— through 
the photograph too — and has just dinted the bottom of the 
box." 

He spread out the letter. Those last tender, lovmg 
words, direct from her overflowing heart, were pierced and 
lacerated by the point of the murderous weapon. 

" If this is not an oracle, there never was such a thing," 
he went on. " Look at this "—reading— *'*.../ daremt 
say " God bless you!' Coming from me it -would entaint-^OHEiSm 
rather than a blessing . . .' The point has cut clean through 
the words ' a curse ' — Mfulini's assegai has made short work 
of that malediction. Is not that the voice of an oracle ? " 

She made no reply. She was watching the development 
of the investigation with rapt, eager attention. 

"Here again — ' . . .Were anything to befall you — were you 
never to come back to me W^^ES^vould be broken ..." As 
the paper is folded it has cut through the word ' heart 
— And — by Jove, this is more than a coincidence ! Here 



340 



"rWEE.\r SNOW AND FIRE. 



again, it lias gone clean through the same word. Look at 
the end. * . . . I imnt you in all your dangers and hardships 
to have, with you, these poor little lines, coming, as they at e, 
warm from my hand and^siiSW^ . .' And now for the photo- 
graph. It is a sweetly lifelike representation of you, my 
dearest " 

A cry from her interrupted him. The portrait was a 
three pnrts length cabinet one, cut round to enable it to fit 
the box, which it did exactly. Right through the breast of 
the portrait, the assegai point had pierced. 

"O Eustace — this is an oracle, indeed!" she cried. 
" Do you not see ? The spear point has gone right through 
my * heart ' again for the third time. My dearest love, thrice 
has my ' heart ' stood between you and death— once in the 
portrait, twice in the letter. At the same time it has 
obliterated the word 'curse.' It is, indeed, an 'oracle' 
and What if I had never given you that box at all ? " 

" I should be a lot of dry bones scattered about the 
veldt in Bomvanaland at this moment," he rejoined. "Now 
you see how your love has twice stood between me and 
death ; has preserved my life for itself. My sweet guardian 
angel, does not that look as if some Fate had always in- 
tended us for each other from the very first I " 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 



AT SWAANEPOEL's HOEK. 

Several months had gone by. , 
The war was nearly over now. Struck on all sides— deci- 
mated by the terrible breech-loading weapons of the whites- 
harried even in their wildest strongholds, their supplies 
running low, their crops destroyed, and winter upon them— 
the insurgent tribes recognised that they were irretrievably 
worsted They had no heart for further fightmg— their 
principal thought now was to make the best terms they 
could for themselves. So all along the frontier the dis- 
heartened savages were flocking in to lay down their arras 
and surrender. Those who belonged to independent tribes 
in the Transkei were treated as belligerents— and after be- 
ing disarmed were located at such places as the Government 
thought fit. Those who were British subjects, and whose 
locations were within the colonial boundaries, such as the 
Gaikas, Hlambis, and a section of the Tembus,were treated 
as rebels and lodged in gaol until such time as it should 
please llie authorities to put them on their trial for high 
treason, treason-felony, or sedition, according to their rank, 
responsibilities, or deeds. Still the unfortunate barbarians 
preferred to discount the chances of the future agamst 
present starvation— and continued to come in, in swarms. 
The gaols were soon crammed to overflowing ; so, too, were 
the supplementary buildings hired for the emergency. 

Not all, however, had preferred imprisonment with plenty 
to liberty with starvation. There were still armed bands 
lurking in the forest recesses of the Amatola, and in the 
rugged and bushy fastnesses beyond the Kei. While most of 
the chiefs of the colonial tribes had either surrendered or 
been slain, the head and Paramount Chief of all was still 
at large " Kreli must be captured or killed," was the gen- 
eral crv " Until this is done the war can never be con- 
sidered at an end." But the old chief had no intention of 

•4* 



242 



'TWEEN- SNOW AND FIRE. 



- submitting lo tiiher process if he could possibly help it. 
He coniinued to make himself remarkably scarce. 

Another character who was very particularly wanted was 
Hlangani, and for this shrewd and daring leader the search 
was almost as keen as for Kreli himself. Common report had 
killed him over and over again, but somehow there was no 
satisfactory evidence of his identification. Then a wild 
rumour got about that he had been sent by his chief on a 
mission to invoke the aid of the Zulu King, who at that time 
was, rightly or wrongly, credited with keeping South Africa 
m general, and the colony of Natal in particular, in a state 
of uneasiness and aUirra. But, wherever he was, like his 
chief, and the "bold gendarmes " of the burlesque song, he 
continued to be " when wanted never there." 

All these reports and many more reached Eustace Milne, 
who had taken no active part in frontier affairs since we saw 
him last. He had even been sounded as to his willingness 
to undertake a post on behalf of the Government which 
should involve establishing diplomatic relations with the 
yet combatant bands, but this he had declined. He in- 
tended to do what he could for certain of the rebels later 
on, but meanwhile the time had not yet come. 

Moreover, he was too happy amid the peaceful idyllic life 
he was then leading to care to leave it even for a time in 
order to serve a potentially ungrateful country. And it was 
idyllic. There was quite enough to do on the place to keep 
even his energetic temperament active. The stock which 
had constituted the capital of their common partnership 
and had been sent to Swaanepoel's Hoek at the outbreak of 
the war required considerable looking after, for, owing to 
the change of veldt, it did not thrive as well as could be 
wished. And then the place afforded plenty of sport ; far 
more than Anta's Kloof had done. Leopards, wild pigs, and 
bushbucks abounded in the bushy kloofs ; indeed, there 
were rather too many of the former, looking at it from the 
farming point of view. The valley bottoms and the water 
courses were full of guinea fowl and francolins, and high up 
on the mountain slopes, the vaal rkybok might be shot for 
the going after, to say nothing of a plentiful sprinkling of 
quail and now and then a bustard. Eustace was often con- 
strained to admit to himself that he would hardly have be- 
lieved it possible that life could hold such perfect and un- 
alloyed happiness. 



AT SWAANEPOEL'S HOEK. 



243 



He had, as we have said, plenty of wholesome and con- 
genial work, with sport to his heart's content, and enjoyed 
a complete immunity from care or worry. These things 
alone might make any man happy. But there was another 
factor in this instance. There was the sweet companion- 
ship of one whom he had loved passionately when the case 
was hopeless and she was beyond his reach, and whom he 
loved not less absorbingly now that all barriers were broken 
down between them, now that they would soon belong to 
each other until their life's end. This was the influence 
that cast a radiant glow upon the doings and undertakings 
of everyday life, encircling everything with a halo of love, 
even as the very peace of Heaven. 

Not less upon Eanswyth did the same influences fall. The 
revulsion following upon that awful period of heart-break 
and despair had given her fresh life indeed. In her grand 
beauty, in the full glow of health and perfect happiness, no 
one would have recognised the white, stricken mourner of 
that time. She realised that there was nothing on earth 
left to desire. And then her conscience would faintly re- 
proach her. Had she a right to revel in such perfect happi- 
ness in the midst of a world of sorrow and strife ? 

But the said world seemed to keep very fairly outside 
that idyllic abode. Now and then they would drive or ride 
into Somerset East, or visit or be visited by a neighbour — 
the latter not often. The bulk of the surrounding settlers 
were Boers, and beyond exchanging a few neighbourly 
civilities from time to time they saw but little of them. 
This, however, was not an unmixed evil. 

Bentley had been as good as his word. His wife was a 
capital housekeeper and had effectively taken all cares of 
that nature off Eanswyth's hands. Both were thoroughly 
good and worthy people, of colonial birth, who, by steadi- 
ness and trustworthy intelligence, had worked their way up 
from a very lowly position. Unlike too many of their 
class, however, they were not consumed with a perennial 
anxiety to show forth their equality in the sight of Heaven 
with those whom they knew to be immeasurably their 
superiors in birth and culture, and to whom, moreover, they 
owed in no small degree their own well-being. So the re- 
lations existing between the two different factors which 
composed the household were of the most cordial nature. 
There had been some delay in settling up Tom Carhayes' 



244 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



affairs— in fact, they were not settled yet. With a good 
sense and foresight, ralht r unexpected in one of his unthink- 
ing and impulsive temperament, poor Tom had made his 
will previous to embarking on the Gcal^ka campaign. 
Everything he possessed was bequeathed to his wife — with 
no restriction upon her marrying again — and Eustace and 
a mutual Friend were appointed executors. 

This generosity had inspired in Eanswyth considerable 
compunction, and was the only defective spoke in the wheel 
of her present great happiness. Sometimes she almost sus- 
pected that her husband had guessed at how matters really 
stood, and the idea cost her more than one remorseful 
pang. Yet, though she had failed in her allegiance, it was 
in her heart' alone. She would have died sooner than have 
done so otherwise, she told herself. 

Twice had the executors applied for the necessary au- 
thority to administer the estate. But the Master of the 
Supreme Court professed himself not quite satisfied. The 
evidence as to the testator's actual death struck him as in - 
adequate—resting, as it did, upon the sole testimony of one 
of the executors, who could not even be positive that the 
man was dead when last seen by him. He might be alive 
still, though held a prisoner. Against this view was urged 
the length of time which had elapsed, and the utter improb- 
ability that the Gcaleka bands, broken up and harried, as they 
were, from point to point, would hamper themselves with a 
prisoner, let alone a member of that race toward which 
they had every reason to entertain the most uncompromis- 
ing and implacable rancour. The Supreme Court, how- 
ever was immovable. When hostilities were entirely at an 
end 'they argued, evidence might be forthcoming on the 
part of natives who had actually witnessed the testator s 
death. That fact incontestably established, letters of ad- 
ministration could at once be granted. Meanwhile the 
matter must be postponed a little longer. 

This delay affected those most concerned not one whit. 
There was not the slightest fear of Eanswyth's interests 
suffering in the able hands which held their management. 
Only, the excessive caution manifested by the law s repre- 
senta'tives would at times communicate to Eustace Miine a 
vnc^ue uneasiness. What if his cousin should be alive after 
alP What if he had escaped under circumstances which 
would involve perforce his absence during a considerable 



AT SWAANEFOF.rS NOEK. 



• A-> Hp nii^'ht have "ained the sea shore, for instance, 
^jTbeea p ck d'^p by a-pas^ing ship bound to sonje d,,- 

nhniits even if not to return in person. He Had not seen 
J;r .;tnTl v killed in his conflict wiUi Hlangani-mdeed, 
facroNhat st^^^nge duel having been fought with 

r^ed^wa^ '-'t^of^tight Eustace could swear but why 
shouM that implacable savage make sue a a point of having 
Se absolute disposal of his enemy, if it were not to exe- 
cute the most deadly ferocious vengeance upon him which 
fav in his power? That the wretched man had been fast- 
^ A^ZZ 7nhe devoured alive by black ants, even as the 

ru',"lS°he i dearw" 'as certain as anything in th,s 
torld c- be" Any suspicion to the contrary he resolved 
to dismiss effectually from lil» mind. 

Fm^wvth would often accompany her lover durmg ms 

surand that this was due to the i-?^-"- .^^^/,fX 
( ^oSn * f:.ntirelv failed to reconcile her to it. .But wneu 

hare. 



246 



'TWEEN S.VOIV AND FIRE. 



and equally at home in the saddle when her steed was pick- 
ing his way along some dizzy mountain path on the side of 
a grass slope as steep as the roof of a house with a series of 
perpendicular krantzes below, or when pursuing some stony 
and rugged bush track where the springy spekboem boughs 
threatened to sweep her from her seat every few yards, 

" We. are partners now, you know, dearest," she would 
say gaily, when he would sometimes urge the fatigue and 
occasionally even the risk of these long and toilsome 
rides. " While that law business still hangs fire the partner- 
ship can't be dissolved, I suppose. Therefore I claim my 
right to do my share of the work." 

It was winter now. The clear mountain air was keen and 
crisp, and although the nights were bitterly cold, the days 
were lovely. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue, and the 
sun poured his rays down into the valleys with a clear, genial 
warmth which just rendered perceptible the bracing ex- 
hilaration of the air. Thanks to the predominating spekboem 
and other evergreen bushes, the winter dress of Nature 
suffered but little diminution in verdure ; and in grand con- 
trast many a stately summit soared proudly aloft, capped 
with a white powdering of snow. 

Those were days of elysium indeed, to those two, as they 
rode abroad among the fairest scenes of wild Nature ; or, 
returning at eve, threaded the grassy bush -paths, while 
the crimson winged louris flashed from tree to tree, and 
the francolins and wild guinea fowl, startled by the horses' 
hoofs, would scuttle across the path, echoing their grating 
note of alarm. And then the sun, sinking behind a lofty 
ridge, would fling his parting rays upon the smooth burn- 
ished faces of the great red cliffs until they glowed like 
molten fire. 

Yes, those were indeed days to look back upon. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 



FROM THE DEAD ! 

EtJSTACE and the overseer were sitting on the sioep 
smoking a final pipe together before gomg to bed. It was 
getting on for midnight and, save these two, the household 
had long since retired. . , , ^ u 

Tempted by the beautv of the night they sat, well 
wrapped up, for it was winter. But the whole firmament 
was ablaze with stars, and the broad nebulous path of the 
Milky Way shone forth like the phosphoric trail in the wake 
of a steamer. The conversation between the two had 
turned upon the fate of Tom Carhayes. 

" I suppose we shall soon know now what his end really 
was •■ the overseer was saying, " Kafirs are as close as 
death over matters of that kind while the wans actually 
going on. But they are sure to talk afterwards, and some of 
them are bound to know." • , • 

" Yes And but for this administration business it might 
be iust'aswell for us not to know," answered Eustace. 
" Depend upon it, whatever it is, it will be something more 
than ghastly, poor fellow. Tom made a great mistake in 
going to settle in Kafirland at all. He'd have done much 

^^"r suppose there isn't the faintest shadow of a chance 
that he may still be alive, Mr. Milne ? " . ^ 

The remark was an unfortunate one. Cool headed as ne 
was, it awoke in Eustace a vague stirring of uneasiness- 
chiming in, as it did, with the misgivings which would some- 
times pass through his own mind. 

" Not a shadow of a chance, I should say, he replied, 
after a slight pause. 

Bentley. too, began to realise that the remark was not a 
happy one-for of course he could not all this time have 
been blind to the state of affairs. He felt confused and re- 
lapsed into silence— puffing vigorously at his pipe. 

The silence was broken— broken in a startling manner. 

a47 



248 



'TWEEN SNOW AN J) J- J RE. 



A terrified scream fell upon their ears— not very loud, but 
breathing unmistakable tones of mortal fear. Both men 
sprang to their feet." i-. 
" Heavens ! " cried the overseer. That's Mrs. Car- 

liRycs " ~ — 

But the other said not a word. In about a half a dozen 
steps he was through the sitting room and had gained the 
door which opened out of it. This was Eanswyth's bed- 
room, whence the terrified cry had proceeded. 

"What is wrong, Eanswyth ? " he cried, tapping at the 
door. . 

It opened immediately. She stood there wrapped in a long 
loose dressing gown, the wealth of her splendid hair falling 
in masses. But her face was white as death, and the large 
eyes were dilated with such a pitiable expression of fear and 
distress, as he certainly had never beheld there. 

" What is it, my darling ? What has frightened you so 7 
he said tenderly, moved to the core by this extraordmaty 
manifestation of pitiable terror. 

She gave a quick flurried look over her shoulder. 1 hen 
clutching his hands— and he noticed that hers were tremb- 
ling and as cold as ice — she gasped : 

" Eustace — I have seen — him ! " 

" Who— in Heaven's name ? " 

"Tom." . „ V 

"Darling, you must have dreamt it. You have been 
allowing your thoughts to run too much on the subject 

and , , , 

" No. It was no dream. I have not even been to bed 
yet," she interrupted, speaking hurriedly. "I was sitting 
there, at the table, reading one of my little books. I just 
happened to look up and— O Eustace "—with a violent 
ghudder— " I saw his face staring in at the window just as 
plainly as I can see you now." 

Eustace followed her cowering glance. The window, 
black and uncurtained, looked out upon the veldt. Vh^T^Q 
were shutters, but they were hardly ever closed. His first 
thought, having dismissed the nightmare theory, was that 
some loafer was hanging about, and seeing the lighted win- 
dow had climbed up to look in. He said as much. 

"No It was him," she interrupted decisively. There 
was no mistaking him. If it were the last word I breathed 
I should still say so. What does it mean ? Oh, what does 



FROM THE DEAD I 



249 



it mean ? " she repeated in tones of the utmost dis- 

t-ress. , ^ , .,, , 

" Hush, hush, my dearest ! Remember, Bentley will hear, 

and " 

" There he is again ! " 

The words broke forth in a shriek. Quickly Eustace 
glanced at the window. The squares of glass, black against 
the outer night, showed nothing in the shape of a human 
countenance. A large moth buzzed against them, and that 
was all. 

Her terror was so genuine, as with blanched face and 
starting eyes she glared upon the black glass, that ever so 
slight a thrill of superstitious dread shot through him in 
spite of himself. 

"Quick ! " she gasped. " Quick! Go and look all round 
the house ! I am not frightened to remain alone. Mr. 
Bentley will stay with me. Go, quick ! " 

The overseer, who had judiciously kept in the background, 
now came forward. 

" Certainly, Mrs. Carhayes. Better come into this room 
and sit down for a bit. Why, you must have been mis- 
taken," he went on, cheerily placing a chair at the sitting 
room fire, and kicking up the nearly dead logs. " Nobody 
could get up at your window. Why, its about fifteen feet 
from the ground and there's nothing lying about for them to 
step on. Not even a monkey could climb up there— though 
— wait. I did hear once of a case where a baboon, a wild 
one out of the ve/Ji, climbed up on to the roof of a house 
and swung himself right into a room. I don't say I believe 
it, though. It's a little too much of a Dutchman's yarn to be 
readily swallowed." 

Thus the good-natured fellow rambled on, intent on 
cheering her up and diverting her thoughts. The rooms 
occupied by himself and his family were at the other end of 
the house and opened outside on the sfoep, hence the sound 
of her terrified shriek had not reached them. 

Eustace, on investigation intent, had slipped round the 
outside of the house with the stealth and rapidity of a sav- 
age. But, as he had expected, there was no Fign of the 
presence of any living thing. He put his ear to the ground 
and listened long and intently. Not a sound. No stealthy 
footfall broke the silence of the night. 

But as he crouched there in the darkness, with every 



25° 



TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



nerve, every faculty at the highest tension, a horrible thought 
came upon him. What if Carhayes had really escaped — 
was really alive ? Why should he not avow himself openly 
— why come prowling around like a midnight assassin ? 
And then the answer suggested itself. Might it not be that 
his mind, unhinged by the experiences of his captivity, 
was filled with the one idea — to exact a deadly vengeance 
upon the wife who had so soon forgotten him ? Such things 
had been, and to this man, watching there in the darkness, 
the idea was horrible enough. 

Stay ! There was one way of placing the matter beyond 
all doubt. He remembered that the soil beneath Eans- 
wyth's window was loose dust — a trifle scratched about by 
the fowls, but would give forth the print of a human foot 
with almost the distinctness of snow. 

Quickly he moved to the spot. Striking a wax vesta, 
and then another, he peered eagerly at the ground. The 
atmosphere was quite still, and the matches flamed like a 
torch. His heart beat and his pulses quickened as he care- 
fully examined the ground — then a feeling of intense relief 
came upon him. There was no sign of a human footprint. 

No living thing could have stood under that window, 
much less climbed up to it, without leaving its traces. There 
were no traces ; ergo, no living thing had been there, and 
he did not believe in ghosts. The whole affair had been a 
hallucination on the part of Eanswyth. This was bad, in 
that it seemed to point to a weak state of health or an over- 
loaded mind. But it was nothing like so bad as the awful 
misfortune involved by the reality would have been — at any 
rate, to him. 

He did not believe in ghosts, but the idea crossed his 
mind that so far as from allaying Eanswyth's fears, the utter 
impossibility of any living being having approached her 
window without leaving spoor in the sandy, impressionable 
soil, would have rather the opposite tendency. Once the idea 
got firmly rooted in her mind that the dead had appeared 
to her there was no foreseeing the limits of the gravity of 
the results. And she had been rather depressed of late. 
Very anxiously he re-entered the house to report the utter 
futility of his search. 

" At all events we'll soon make it impossible for you to 
get another sckrek in the same way, Mrs. Carhayes," said 
the overseer cheerily. " We'll fasten the shutters up." 



FROM THE DEAD! 



It was long before the distressed, scared look faded from 
her eyes. " Eustace," she said— Bentley having judiciously 
left them together for a while—" When you were — when I 
thought you dead— I wearied Heaven with prayers to allow 
me one glimpse of you again. I had no fear then, but now 
— O God ! it is his spirit that I have seen." 

He tried to soothe her, to reassure her, and in a measure 
succeeded. At Inst, to the surprise of himself and the over- 
seer, she seemed to shake off her terror as suddenly as it 
had 'assailed her. She was very foolish, she declared. She 
would go to bed now, and not keep them up all night in 
that selfish manner. And she actually did— refusing all 
offers on the part of Eustace or the overseer to remain in 
the sitting room in order to be within call, or to patrol 
around the house for the rest of the night. 

" No," she said, " I am ashamed of myself already. The 
shutters are fastened up and I shall keep plenty of light 
burning. I feel quite safe now." 

It was late next morning when Eanswyth appeared. 
Thoroughly refreshed by a long, sound sleep, she had quite 
forgotten her fears. Only as darkness drew on again a 
restless uneasiness came over her, but again she seemed to 
throw it off with an effort. She seemed to have the faculty 
of pulling herself together by an effort of will — even as she 
had done that night beside the broken-down buggy, while 
listening for the approaching footsteps of their savage en- 
emies in the darkness. To Eustace's relief, however, noth- 
ing occurred to revive her uneasiness. 

But he himself, in his turn, was destined to receive a 
rude shock. 



CHAPTER XL. 



A LETTER FROM HOSTE. 

There was no postal delivery at Swaanepoel's Hoek, nor 
was there any regular day for sending for the mails. If any- 
body was driving or riding into Somerset East on business 
or pleasure, they would call at the post office and bring out 
whatever there was ; or, if anything of greater or less im- 
portance was expected, a native servant would be despatched 
with a note to the postmaster. 

Bentley had just returned from the township, bringing 
with him a batch of letters. Several fell to Eustace's share, 
all, more or less, of a business nature. All, save one—and 
before he opened this he recognised Hoste's handwriting : 

My Dear Milne [it began] : This is going to bean important com- 
munication. So, before you go any further, you had better get into 
some sequestered corner by yourself to read it, for it's going to knock 
you out of time some, or I'm a Dutchman. 

"That's a shrewd idea on the part of Hoste putting in 
that caution," he said to himself, " I should never have 
credited the chap with so much gumption." 

He was alone in the shearing-house when the overseer 
had handed him his letters. His coat was off, and he was 
doing one or two odd carpentering jobs. The time was 
about midday. Nobody was likely to interrupt him here. 

Something has come to my knowledge [went on the letter] which you, 
of all men, ought to be the one to investigate. To come to the point, 
there is some reason to suppose that poor Tom Carhayes may still be 
alive. 

You remember that Kafir on whose behalf you interfered vyhen Jack- 
son and a lot of fellows were giving him beans ? He is my informant. 
He began by inquiring for you, and when I told him you were far away, 
and not likely to be up here again, he seemed disappointed, and said be 
wanted to do you a good turn for standing his friend on that occasion. 
He said he now knew who you were, and thought he could tell you 
something you would like to know. 

Well, I told him he had better unburden himself to me, and if his in- 
formation seemed likely to be of use, he might depend upon me pass- 

2^2 



A LET/-/; A' FROM HOSTE. 



ing it on to you. This, ai fust, lie didn't .seem to see — you know 
what a suspicious dog our Mack brother hatiitually i.s — and took himself 
off. But the secret seemed to weigh upon him, for, in a day or two, he 
turned up again, and ihen, in the course of a good deal of " dark talk- 
ing," he gave me to understand that Tom Carhayes was still alive ; and, 
in fact, he knew where he was. 

Milne, you may just bet your boots I felt knocked all out of time. I 
hadn't the least suspicion what the fellow was driving at, at first. 
Thought he was going to let out that he knew whereold Kreli was hid- 
ing, or Hlangani, perhaps. So, you see, you must come up here at 
once, and look into the matter. I've arranged to send word to Xalisa — 
that's the fellow's name — to meet us at Aula's Kloof directly you arrive. 

Don't lose any time. Strirt the moment you get this. Of course I've 
kept the thing as dark as pitch ; but there's no knowing when an affair 
of this kind may not leak out and get into all the papers. 

Kind regards to Mrs. Carhayes — and keep this from her at present. 

Yours ever, 

Percy F, Hoste. 

Carefully Eustace read through every word of this com- 
munication ; then, beginning again, he read it through a 
second time, 

" This requires some thinking out," he said to himself. 
Then taking up the letter he went out in search of some 
retired spot where it would be absolutely impossible that he 
should be interrupted. 

Wandering mechanically he found himself on the very 
spot where they had investigated the silver box together. 
That would do. No one would think of looking for him 
there. 

He took out the letter and again studied every word of it 
carefully. There was no getting behind its contents : they 
were too plain in their fatal simplicity. And there was an 
inherent probability about the potentiality hinted at. He 
would certainly start at once to investigate the affair. Better 
to know the worst at any rate. And then how heartily he 
cursed the Kafir's obtrusive gratitude, wishing a thousand 
fold that he had left that sable bird of ill-omen at the mercy 
of his chastisers. However, if there was any truth in the 
story, it was bound to have come to light sooner or later in 
any case — perhaps better now, before the mischief wrought 
was irreparable. But if it should turn out to be true — what 
then ? Good-bye to this beautiful and idyllic dream in 
which they two had been living during all these months 
past. Good-bye to a life's happiness ; to the bright golden 
vista they had been gazing into together. Why had he not 



254 



'TWEEN SA'Oir AND FIRE. 



closed with Hlangani's hideous proposal long ago ? Was it 
too late even now? 

The man suffered agonies as he sat there, realising his 
shattered hopes — the fair and priceless structure of his life's 
happiness levelled to the earth like a house of cards. Like 
Lucifer fallen from Paradise he felt ready for anything. 

Great was Eanswyth's consternation and astonishment 
when he announced the necessity of making a start that 
afternoon. 

" The time will soon pass," he said. " It is a horrible 
nuisance, darling, but there is no help for it. The thing is 
too important. The fact is, something has come to light — 
something which may settle that delayed administration 
business at once." 

It might, indeed, but in a way very different to that which 
he intended to convey. But she was satisfied. 

" Do not remain away from me a moment longer than you 
can help, Eustace, my life!" she had whispered to him 
during the last farewell, she having walked a few hundred 
yards with him in order to see the last of him. " Remember, 
I shall only exist — not live — during these next few days. 
This is the first time you have been away from me since — 
since that awful time." 

Then had come the sweet, clinging, agonising tenderness 
of parting. Eanswyth, having watched him out of sight, 
returned slowly to the house, while he, starting upon his 
strange venture, was thinking in the bitterness of his soul 
how — when — they would meet again. His heart was heavy 
with a sense of coming evil, and as he rode along his 
thoughts would recur again and again to the apparition 
which had so terrified Eanswyth a few nights ago. Was it 
the product of a hallucination on her part after all, or was 
it the manifestation of some strange and dual phase of 
Nature, warning of the ill that was to come ? He felt almost 
inclined to admit the latter. 



CHAPTER XLL 



xalAsa's revelation. 

" You ought to consider yourself uncommonly fortunate, 
Milne," said Hoste, as the two men drew near Anta's 
Kloof, " You are the only one of the lot of us not burnt 
out." 

•* That's a good deal thanks to Josane," replied Eustace, 
as the house came into sight. " He thought he could 
manage to save it. I didn't. But he was light." 

" Ha-ha ! I believe the old scamp has been enjoying 
himself all this time with the rebels. I dare say he has been 
helping to do the faggot trick." 

" Quite likely." 

Hoste eyed his companion with a curious glance. The 
latter had been rather laconic during their ride ; otherwise 
he seemed to show no very great interest one way or 
another in the object of it. Yet there was reason for 
believing that if Xall.sa's tale should prove true it would 
make every difference to the whole of Eustace Milne's 
future life. 

The sun was just setting as they reached Anta's Kloof. 
The Kafir had stipulated that they should meet him at 
night. He did not want to incur potential pains and 
penalties at the hands of his compatriots as an "informer " 
if he could possibly help it. The house, as Hoste had said, 
was the only one in the whole neighbourhood which had 
escaped the torch, but that was all that could be said, for it 
was completely gutted. Everything portable had been 
carried off, if likely to prove of any use to the marauders, 
what was not likely so to prove being smashed or otherwise 
destroyed. Windows were broken and doors hung loose on 
their hinges ; in fact, the place was a perfect wreck. Still it 
was something that the fabric would not need rebuilding. 

Hardly had they off-saddled their horses, and, knee- 
haltering them close, turned them out to graze around the 
house, than the night fell. 



'TWEEN S.XOIV AXD EIRE. 



'* Xalasa should be here by now," remarked Hoste, rather 
anxiously. " Unless he has thought better of it. I always 
expected we should learn something more about poor Tom 
when the war was over. Kafirs will talk. Not that I ever 
expected to hear that he was alive, poor chap — if he is, 
that's to say. But what hod been the actual method of his 
death : that was bound to leak out sooner or later." 

Eustace made no reply. The remark irritated him, if 
only that his companion had made it, in one form or 
another, at least half a dozen times already. Then the 
sound of a light footstep was heard, and a tall, dark figure 
stood before them in the gloom, with a muttered salutation. 

"Greeting, Xalksa ! " said Eustace, handing the new 
arrival a large piece of Boer tobacco. " We will smoke 
while we talk. The taste of the fragrant plant is to con- 
versation even as the oil unto the axles of a heavily laden 
waggon." 

The Kafir promptly filled his pipe. The two white men 
did likewise. 

" Have you been in the war, Xalasa ? " went on Eustace, 
when the pipes were in fuU blast. "You need not be 
afraid of saying anything to us. We are not Government 
people." 

" Au ! " said the Gaika, with a quizzical grin upon his 
massive countenance. " I am a ' loyal,' Ixeshane." 

" The chiefs of the Ama Ngqika, Sandili and the rest of 
them, have acted like children," replied Eustace, with 
apparent irrelevance. " They have allowed themselves to be 
dragged into war at the ' word ' of Kreli, and against the 
advice of their real friends, and where are they now ? In 
prison, with a lot of thieves and common criminals, threat- 
ened with the death of a dog !" 

The Kafir uttered an emphatic murmur'of assent. Hoste, 
who was excusably wondering what the deuce the recent 
bad behaviour, and eventual fate of Sandili & Co , had 
to do with that of Tom Carhayes, could hardly restrain his 
impatience. But Eustace knew what he was about. The 
Briton may, as he delights to boast, prefer plain and 
straightforward talking in matters of importance— or he 
may not. The savage, of whatever race or clime, unequiv- 
ocally does not. He dearly loves what we should call 
beating around the bush. However important the subject 
under discussion, it must be led up to. To dash straight at 



LA SA ' S RE VELA TION. 



the point is not nis way. So after some further talk on the 
prospects and politics of the Gaika nation, and of the 
Amaxosa race in general — past, present, and to come — 
Eustace went on : 

" You were not always a ' loyal,' Xalasa? " 

""Whau!" cried the man, bringing his hand to his 
mouth, in expressive native fashion. " When the fire 
trumpet first sounded in the midnight sky, I answered its 
call. While the chiefs of the Amangqika yet sat still, many 
of their children went forth to war at the ' word ' of the 
Paramount Chief. Many of us crossed into the Gcaleka 
country and fought at the side of our brethren. Many of 
us did not return. Hau ! " 

" Then you became a ' loyal ' ? " 

" Ihuvumentd* was very strong, We could not stand 
against it. Ha ! Amasoja — Amapolisi — bonkd. f I thought 
of all the men who had crossed the Kei with me. I thought 
of the few who had returned. Then I thought, ' Art thou 
a fool, Xalasa ? Is thy father's son an ox that he should 
give himself to be slain to make strength for Sarili's fighting 
men?' Hau! I came home again and resolved to *sit 
still.'" 

*' But your eyes and ears were open among the Ama- 
Gcaleka. They saw — they heard of my brother, Umlil- 
wane ? " 

" Thy brother, Umlilwane, was alive at the time the white 
AmagcagcaX knocked me down and kicked me. He is 
alive still." 

" How do you kaow he is alive still?" said Eustace, 
mastering his voice with an effort, for his pulses were beat- 
ing like a hammer as he hung upon the other's reply. It 
came — cool, impassive, confident : 

" The people talk." 

"Where is he, Xalasa?" 

"Listen, Ixeshane," said the Kafir, glancing around and 
sinking his voice to an awed whisper. " Where is he I 
Au 1 Kwa 'Zinyoka." § 

" Kwa 'Zinyoka ! ' The Home of the Serpents ! ' " Well 
he remembered the jeering, but ominous, words of the 
hideous witch-doctress at the time his unfortunate cousin 



* The Govemment. 
f Soldiers — police — all. 



X Rabble. 

§ See note on p. 205. 



258 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



was being dragged away insensible under the directions of 
his implacable foe, Hlangani. He will wake. But he will 
never be seen again." And now this man's testimony seemed 
to bear out her words. 

" What is this ' Home of the Serpents,' Xalksa ? " he 
said. 

Au,'"' returned the Kafir, after a thoughtful pause, and 
speaking in a low and apprehensive tone as a timid person 
in a haunted room might talk of ghosts. " It is a fearsome 
place. None who go there ever return — none — no, not one," 
he added, shaking his head. " But they say your magic is 
great, Ixeshane. It may be that you will find your brother 
alive. The war is nearly over now, but the war leaves every 
man poor. I have lost all I possessed. When you find 
your brother you will perhaps think ' Xalksa is a poor mar, 
and I have too many cattle in my kraal. I will send four 
or five cows to the man who told me my brother was 
alive.' " 

In his heart of hearts Eustace thought how willingly he 
would send him a hundred for precisely the opposite intel- 
ligence. 

" Where is ' The Home of the Serpents ' ? " he said. 

"Where? Who knows? None save Ngcenika, who 
talks with the spirits. None save Hlangani, who rejoices 
in his revenge as he sees his enemy there, even the man who 
struck him, and drew the blood of the Great Chief's herald. 
Who knows ? Not I. Those who go there never return," 
he added impressively, conveying the idea that in his par- 
ticular instance "ignorance is bliss." 

Eustace's first instinct was one of relief. If no one knew 
where the place was, clearly no one could tell. Then it 
struck him that this rather tended to complicate matters 
than to simplify them. There had been quite enough 
insinuated as to himself, and though guiltless as to his 
cousin's fate, yet once it got wind that the unfortunate man 
was probably alive somewhere, it would devolve upon him- 
self to leave no stone unturned until that probability should 
become a certainty. Public opinion would demand that 
much, and he knew the world far too well to make the 
blunder of treating public opinion, in a matter of this kind, 
as a negligeable quantity. 

" But if you don't know where the place is, Xalisa, how 
am I to find it? " he said at length. " I would give much 



XALASA'S REVELATION. 



259 



to the man who would guide me to it. Think ! Is there 
no man you know of who could do so ? " 

But the Kafir shook his head. " There is none ! " he 
said. " None save Ngcenika. Whau, Ixeshane ! Is not 
thy magic as powerful as hers ? Will it not aid thee to find 
it ? Now I must go. Where the ' Home of the Serpents' is, 
thy brother is there. That is all I can tell thee." 

He spoke hurriedly now and in an altered tone — even as 
a man who has said too much and is not free from misgiving 
as to the consequences. He seemed anxious to depart, and 
seeing that nothing more was to be got out of him for the 
present, the two made no objection. 

Hardly had he departed than Josane appeared. He had 
noted the arrival of Xalasa, though Xalasa was under the 
impression that he was many miles distant. He had waited 
until the amakosi * had finished their indaha \ and here he 
was. He was filled with delight at the sight of Ixeshane 
and his eyes felt good. His " father " and his " friend " had 
been away for many moons, but now he was back again and 
the night was lighter than the day. His " father " could see, 
too, how he had kept his trust, the old man went on. Where 
were the houses of all the other white amakosi 1 Heaps of 
ashes. The house of his " father " alone was standing — it 
alone the torch had passed by. As for the destruction 
which had taken place within it, that could not be prevented. 
The people " saw red." It had taxed the utmost effort of 
himself and Ncandiiku to preserve the house. Reft of hy- 
perbole, his narrative Avas plain enough. A marauding band 
had made a descent upon the place on the very night they 
had quitted it, and, although with difficulty dissuaded from 
burning it down, the savages had wrecked the furniture and 
looted the stores, as we have shown. This, however, was 
comparatively a small evil. 

Hoste, wearied with all this talk, which moreover he un- 
derstood but imperfectly, had waxed restive and strolled 
away. No sooner was he out of earshot than Josane, sink- 
ing his voice, remarked suddenly : 

" Xalasa is a fool ! " 

Eustace merely assented. He saw that something was 
coming, and prepared to listen attentively. 



* Lit : " chiefs." la this connection " masters." 
t Talk. 



26o 



•TWEE.Y SA^OIV AND FINE. 



"Do you want to find Urnlilwane?" went on tlie old 
Kafir with ever so sliglit an expression on the '' want." 

" Of course I do," was the unhesitating reply. But for 
the space of half a minute the white man and the savage 
gazed fixedly into each other's faces in the starlight. 

" Au! If I had tnown that ! " muttered Josane in a dis- 
appointed tone. " If I had known that, I could have told 
you all- that Xalksa has — could have tcld you many moons 
ago." 

"You knew it, then?" 
" Yes." 

" And is it true — that — that he is alive now ?" 
"Yes." 

" But, Josane, how is it you kept your knowledge to your- 
self ? He might have been rescued all this time. Now it 
may be too late." 

" Whau, Ixeshane ! Did you want him rescued ? " said 
the old fellow shrewdly. Did the Inkosikazi want him 
rescued ? " 

This was putting matters with uncomfortable plainness. 
Eustace reddened in the darkness. 

" Whatever we ' wanted,' or did not want, is nothing," 
he answered. " This is a matter of life and death. He 
must be rescued." 

As you will," was the reply in a tone which implied that 
in the speaker's opinion the white man was a lunatic. And 
from his point of view such was really the case. The old 
savage was, in fact, following out a thorouglily virtuous line 
of conduct according to his lights. All this while, in order 
to benefit the man he liked, he had coolly and deliberately 
been sacrificing the man he — well, did not like. 

" Where is ' The Home of the Serpents,' Josane ? Do 
you know ?" 

" Yes. I know ? " 

Eustace started. 

" Can you guide me to it ? " he sai 1, speaking quickly. 

" I can. But it is a frightful place. The bravest white 
man would take to his heels and run like a hunted buck 
before he had gone far inside. You have extraordinary 
nerve, Ixeshane — but You will see." 

This sounded promising. But the old man's tone was 
quiet and confident. He was not given to vapouring. 

" How do you know where to find this place, Josane ?" 



XA lAsa's re vela tion. 



said Eustace, half incredulously in spite of himself. 
' xalasa told us it was unknown to everybody-everybody 

but the witch-doctress ? " . • u t v.o,r- 

" Xalasa was right. I know where it is, because I have 

seen it. / was condemned to it. 
" Bv Nccenika ? " 

" Bv Ngcenika. But my revenge is coming— my sure re- 
venge^is coming," muttered the old Gcaleka, crooning the 
wordsin a kind of ferocious refrain-like that of a war-song. 

As this juncture they were rejoined by Hoste. 

" Well, Milne," he said. "Had enough indaba^ Be- 
rause if so we i^ay as well trek home again. Seems to me 
we-rehlra Z of Luble for notHng and been made rnor- 
tal fools of down to _the ground by that schelm, Xalasa s, 

cock-and-bull yarns." j t:' "Tii<!t listen 

" You're wrong this time," rephed Eustace. Just Us en 
here a while and you'll see that we're thoroughly on the 

" A*t thfend of half an hour the Kafir and the two white 
men arose Their plans were laid. The following evening 
-at sundown-was the time fixed on as that for starting up- 
on their perilous and somewhat dimly -y^^enous mission. 
"You are sure three of us will be enough, Josane? 

Ouitfenough There are still bands of the Gcaleka 
fight?ng Ln in'L forest country. If we go m a strong 
Sty they will discover us and we ^^^1^'"^" -u^^'T 
^Au> 'A fight is as the air we breathe' you will say, 

parenthesised the J^?^ I^t;m: Jthe leT- 
"But it will not help us to find ' The Home of the ber 
pents.' Stni, there would be no harm in havmg one more 

Who can' we get?" mused Hoste. "There's George 
Payne but he's alay down in the Colony-Grahamstown 
I believe. It would take him days to get here and even 
then hrmight cry off. I have it; Shelton's the man, and 
n^t^l he'fl go, t'oo. Depend upon it Milne, SheUon s the 
very man. He's on his farm now--living m a Kaf «: hut 
seeing after the rebuilding of his old house. Well ook 
him up this very night; we can get there in a couple of hours^ 

This was agreed to, and having arranged ^^^^-J^ ""^ 
was to meet them the following evening, the two men sad- 
dled up and rode off into the darkness. 



CHAPTER XLII. 



THE SEARCH PARTY. 

Midwinter as it was, the heat in the valley of the Bashi 
that morning was something to remember. 

Not so much the heat as an extraordinary closeness and 
sense of oppression in the atmosphere. As the sun rose, 
mounting higher and higher into the clear blue of the 
heavens, it seemed that all his rays were concentrated and 
focussed down into this broad deep valley, whose sides 
were broken up into a grand panorama of soaring 
krantzes and wild rocky gorges, which latter, as also the 
great terraced slopes, were covered with dense forest, where 
the huge and spreading yellow wood, all dangling with 
monkey trailers, alternated with the wild fig and the 
mimosa, the spekboem scrub and the waacht-een-bietje thorn, 
the spiky aloe and the plumed euphorbia, and where, in 
the cool dank shade, flourished many a rare orchid, begin- 
ning to show sign of blossoming, winter as it was. 

But the four men riding there, making a path for them- 
selves through this well-nigh virgin forest, had little thought 
to give to the beauties of Nature. Seriousness and anxiety 
was absent from none of those countenances. For to-day 
would see the object of their quest attained. 

So far their expedition had been in no wise unattended by 
danger. Four men would be a mere mouthful if discovered 
by any of the scattered bands of the enemy, who still roamed 
the country in its wildest and most rugged parts. The 
ferocity of these savages, stimulated by a sullen but venge- 
ful consciousness of defeat, would render them doubly 
formidable. Four men constituted a mere handful. So the 
party had travelled by circuitous ways, only advancing at 
night, and lying hidden during the daytime in the most 
retired and sequestered spots. Twice from such judicious 
hiding places had they espied considerable bodies of the 
enemy marching northward, and two or three times, patrols, 
or armed forces of their own countrymen. But these they 

263 



THE SEARCH PARTY. 



263 



were almost as careful to avoid as the savage Gcal^kas. Four 
men advancing into the hostile country was an uncommon 
sight. They did not want their expedition talked about, 
even among their own countrymen, just yet. And now 
they were within two hours of the object of their search. 

The dangers they had gone through, and those which were 
yet to come, were courted, be it remembered, not in search 
of treasure or riches, not even out of love of adventure. 
They were braved in order to rescue a friend and comrade 
from an unknown fate, whose mysteriousness was enhanced 
by vague hints at undefined horrors, on the part of the only 
man qualified to speak, viz., their guide. 

For Josane had proved extraordinarily reticent as to de- 
tails ; and all attempts to draw him out during their journey 
had failed. As they drew near the dreaded spot this 
reticence had deepened to a remarkable degree. The old 
Gcal6ka displayed an ominous taciturnity, a gloom even, 
which was in no degree calculated to raise the spirits of the 
three white men. Even Eustace failed to elicit from him 
any definite facts. He had been " smelt out" and condemned 
to " the Home of the Serpents" and had escaped while beinfr 
taken into it, and to do this he had almost had to fly through 
the air. But the place would try their nerves to the utter- 
most ; of that he warned them. Then he would subside again 
into silence, regardless of any further attempt to " draw" 

him. , • J J 1, 

There was one of the party whose motives, ]udged by 
ordinary human standards, were little short of heroic, 
and that one was Eustace Milne. He had nothing to gain 
by the present undertaking, nor had the others. But then 
they had nothing to lose by it except their lives, whereas he 
had not only that but everything that made life worth living 
into the bargain. Again and again he found himself curs- 
ing Xalasa's "gratitude," from the very depths of his soul. 
Yet never for a moment did he swerve in his resolve to save 
his unfortuate cousin if the thing were to be done, although 
there were times when he marvelled over himself as a strange 
and unaccountable paradox. 

A silence was upon them all, as they moved at a foot s 
pace through the dense and jungly tangle, mounting ever 
upwards After an hour of this travelling they had reached 
a considerable height. Here in a sequestered glade Josane 
called a halt. 



264 



'TWEEN SA'Oir AxYD FIRE. 



" We must leave the horses," he said- " It is impossible 
to take them where we are going. Whau ! " he went on, 
looking upwards and snuffing the air like a slag, " There 
will be plenty of thunder by and by. We have no time to 
lose." 

Taking with them a long twisted rawhide rope, of amaz- 
ing strength, which might be necessary for climbing pur- 
poses, and a few smaller reims, together with a day's pro- 
visions, and every available cartridge, they started on foot, 
Josane leading the way. Each was armed with a double 
gun — one barrel rifled — and a revolver. The Gcaleka car- 
ried three small-bladed casting assegais, and a broad 
headed, close-quarter one, as well as a kerrie. 

They had struck into a narrow gorge in the side of the 
hill. It was hard work making any headway at all. The 
dense bush, intertwined with creepers, met them in places in 
an unbroken wall, but Josane would hack away manfully 
with his broad-bladed assegai until he succeeded in forcing 
a way. 

" It seems as if we were going to storm the devil's castle," 
said Shelton, sitting down to wipe his streaming brow. " It's 
hot enough anyway." 

" Rather," assented Hoste. " Milne, old chap, how do 
you feel ? " 

" Headachy. There's a power of thunder sticking out — 
as Josane says — against when we get otit." 
"If we ever do get out." 

" That's cheerful. Well, if we mean to get in, I suppose 
we'd better make a move ? Eh, Josane ! " 

The Kafir emphatically agreed. He had witnessed their 
dilatoriness not without concern. He appeared strangely 
eager to get the thing over — contrary to the habits of his 
kind, for savages, of whatever race, are never in a hurry. A 
line of rocky boulders in front, thickly grown wilh straight 
stemmed euphorbia, stiff and regular like the pipes of an 
organ, precluded any view of the sort of formation that lay 
beyond. Right across their path, if path it might be called, 
rose another impenetrable wall of thorns and creepers. In 
front of this Josane halted. 



CHAPTER XLIII. 



*' KWA 'ZINYOKA." 

The brooding, oppressive stillness deepened. Not a 
breath of air stirred the sprays of the bush, which slept 
motionless as though carved in stone. Even the very bird 
voices were hushed. Far below, the sound of the river, 
flowing over its long stony reaches, came upwards in plain- 
tive monotonous murmur. 

All of a sudden Josane turned. He sent one keen search- 
ing glance straight in front of him, and another from side to 

''^^^The Home of the Serpents is a horrible place," he said. 
" I have warned you that it is so.^ It is not too late now. 
The Amakosi can yet turn back." 

The awed solemnity of his tone could not fail to impress 
his hearers, especially two of them. The boding sense of 
oppression in the atmosphere, the utter wildness of the sur- 
roundings, the uneasy, mysterious nature of their quest, and 
the tall gaunt figure of the old Kafir standing m the semi- 
gloom beneath the funereal plumes of the straight stemmed 
euphorbia, like an oracle of misfortune— all this affected the 
imagination of two, at any rate, of these ordinarily hard- 
headed and practical men in a fashion they could scarcely 
have deemed possible. The third, however, was impervious 
to such influences. There was too much involved in the 
material side of the undertaking. No thought had he to 
spare apart from this; no scope was there for giving free rem 
to his imagination. , ■. a t 

"I think I may say we none of us have the slightest idea ot 
turning back ! " he answered. 

" Certainly not" assented the other two. 

Tosane looked fixedly at them for a moment. Then he said: 

" It is good. Follow me— carefully, carefully. We do not 
want to leave a broad spoor." 

The undergrowth among the straight stiff stems ot the 
euphorbia looked dense and impenetrable as a wall, io 



266 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



the astonishment of the spectators, t!ie old Kafir Jay flat on 
his stomach, lifted the dense tangle just enough to admit the 
passage of his body, for all the world as though he were lift- 
ing a heavy curtain, and slipped through. 

" Come," he whispered from the other side, for he had 
completely disappeared from view. " Come— as I did. But 
do not rend the bushes more than is absolutely necessary." 

They followed, worming their way in the same fashion 
about a dozen yards. Then an ejaculation of amazement, 
not unmixed with alarm, broke from the lips of Shelton, who 
was leading. It found an echo on those of the other two. 
Their first instinct was to draw back. 

They had emerged upon a narrow ledge, not of rock, or 
even earth ; a narrow ledge of soft, yielding, quaking moss. 
And it overhung what had the appearance of a huge natural 
well. 

It literally overhung. By peering cautiously outward they 
could see a smooth perpendicular wall of red rock falling 
sheer and straight to a depth of nearly two hundred feet. 
Three sides of the hollow— itself not that distance in width — 
were similarly constituted, the fourth being a precipitous, well 
nigh perpendicular slope, with a sparse growth of stunted 
bushes jotting iis rugged sides. A strange, gruesome look- 
ing hole, whose dismal depths showed not the smallest sign 
of life. Could this be the awesome, mysterious "Home of 
the Serpents " ? 

But Josane's next words disabused them on this point. 

"Tarry not," he said. "Follow me. Do even as I do." 

Right to the brink of this horrible abyss the bush grew in 
a dense jungly wall, and it was the roots of this, overgrown 
with an accumulation of moss and soil, that constituted the 
apology for a ledge along which they were expected to make 
their way. And there was a distance of at least sixty or 
seventy yards of this precarious footway, to miss which 
would mean a certain and terrible death. 

It would have been something of an ordeal even had the 
foothold been firm. Now, however, as they made their way 
along this quivering, quaking, ladder-like pathway of pro- 
jecting roots interleaved with treacherous moss, not one of 
the three was altogether free from a nervous and shaky 
sensation about the knees as he moved slowly forward, select- 
ing the strongest-looking stems for hand-hold. Once a root 
whereon Hoste had put his foot gave way with a muffled 



" KiVA 'zinyoka:' 



267 



crack, letting his leg through the fearful pathway up to the 
thigh. An involuntary cry escaped him as, grasping a stem 
above him, he drew it forth with a supreme effort, and his 
brown visage assumed a hue a good many shades paler, as 
through the hole thus made he contemplated a little cloud of 
leaves and sticks swirling away into the abyss. 

" Great Heaven ! " he ejaculated, " Are we never coming 
to the end of this ghastly place ?" 

"How would you like to cross it running at full speed, 
like a monkey, as I was forced to do ? I told you I had 
to fly through the air," muttered Josane, who had over- 
heard. "The horror of it has only just begun — just begun. 
Hau! Did I not say it was going to be a horrible place ? " 

But they were destined to reach the end of it without 
mishap, and right glad were they to find themselves crawling 
along a narrow ledge overhung by a great rock, still skirting 
the abyss, but at any rate there was hard ground under 
them ; not a mere shaky network of more or less rotten roots. 

" Is this the only way, Josane ? " said Eustace at length, 
as they paused for a few minutes to recover breath, and, truth 
to say, to steady their nerves a trifle. Even he put the 
question with some diffidence, for as they drew nearer and 
nearer to the locality of their weird quest the old Gcal^ka's 
manner had undergone a still further change. He had 
become morose and taciturn, gloomy and abstracted to a 
degree. 

" It is not," he answered. " It is the only way I know. 
When I came here my eyes were shut ; when I went away 
they were open. Then I approached it from above ; now 
we have approached from below. The way by which I 
left, is the way you have seen." 

" O Lord ! I wouldn't travel the last infernal hundred 
yards again for a thousand pounds," muttered Hoste rue- 
fully. " And now, I've got to do it again for nothing. I'd 
sooner run the gauntlet of the whole Gcal^ka tribe, as we 
did before." 

" We may have to do that as well," remarked Shelton. 
" But I think I never did see such an utterly dismal and 
God-forsaken corner in my life. Looks as if Old Nick had 
built it out of sheer devilment." 

There was reason in what he said. The immense funnel- 
like hole seemed an extraordinary caprice of Nature. Noth- 
ing grew at the bottom but coarse herbage and a few stunted 



268 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



bushes. It seemed absolutely lacking in raisoti letre. 
Occurring at the top of a mouulain, it would at once have 
suggested an ancient crater. Occurring, as it did, in solid 
ground on the steep slope of a lofty river bank that theory 
seemed not to hold good. On all sides, save the narrow 
defile they had come through, it was shut in by lofty wooded 
heights breaking here and there into a red iron-slone cliff. 

Their guide resumed his way, advancing in a listening at- 
titude, and with intense caution. The ledge upon which 
they crept, now on all-fours, widened considerably. The 
projecting rock overhead jutted out further and further, till 
it overhung the abyss for a considerable distance. Beneath 
its shade they were already in serai-gloom. Crawling along, 
toilsomely, laboriously, one behind the other, each man 
with all his senses, all his faculties, on the alert, the fact 
that their guide had stopped came upon them as a surprise. 
Then, as they joined him, and crouched there side by side — 
each man's heart beat quicker, each man's face slightly 
changed colour. For the overhanging rock had heightened — 
the ledge had widened to an area of fifteen or twenty feet. 
Flooring and rock-roof no longer met. At the bottom of 
this area, both yawned away from each other in a black 
horizontal rift. 

Save through this rift there was no getting any further. 
Quickly each mind grasped the solution. The cave yawn- 
ing in front of them was 

" Where does that hole lead to, Josane ? " said Hoste. 

" Kwa ^zinyoka" replied the Gcaleka, impressively. 

Such creatures are we of the light and air, that it is safe 
to assert that not even the boldest among us can undertake 
the most cursory exploration into the bowels of the earth 
Avithout a consciousness of ever so slight a sobering in- 
fluence, a kind of misgiving begotten of the idea of darkness 
and weight — a feeling as though the cavern roof might 
crush down upon us, and bury us there throughout the aeons 
of eternity. It is not surprising, therefore, that our three 
friends — all men of tried courage — should sit down for a 
few minutes, and contemplate this yawning black hole in 
dubious silence. 

It was no reflection on their courage, either. They had 
just dared and surmounted a peril trying and frightful 
enough to tax the strongest nerves — and now before them 
lay the entrance to an unknown inferno ; a place bristling 



A'WA 'ZINYOKA. 



269 



with grim and mysterious terrors such as even their stout- 
hearted guide — the only man who knew what they were — 
recoiled from braving again. They could hardly believe 
that the friend and fellow-countrymen, whom all these 
months they had reckoned among the slain, lay near them 
within that fearful place, alive, and perchance unharmed. 
It might be, however, that the cavern before them was but 
a tunnel, leading to some hidden and inaccessible retreat 
like the curious crater-like hollow they had just skirted. 

" Au ! " exclaimed Josane, with a dissatisfied shake of the 
head, " We cannot afford to sleep here. If we intend to go 
in we must do so at once." 

There was reason in this. Their preparations were sim- 
ple enough — -and consisted in seeing that their weapons 
were in perfect readiness. Eustace, too, had lighted a 
strong bull's-eye lantern with a closing slide. Besides this, 
each man was plentifully supplied with candles, which, how- 
ever, it was decided, should only be used if a quantity of 
light became absolutely necessary. 

Be it remembered not one of the three white men 
had other than the vaguest idea of the nature of the 
horrors which this gruesome place might disclose. Whether 
through motives of superstition or from whatever cause, 
Josane had hitherto preserved a remarkable silence on the 
subject. Now he said, significantly: 

" Hear my words, Amakosi. Tread one behind the other, 
and look neither to the right nor to the left, nor above. But 
look ivhere you place your steps, and look carefully- Remem- 
ber my words, for I know that of which I speak," 

They compared their watches. It was just half-past one. 
They sent a last long look at the sky and the surrounding 
heights. As they did so there rolled forth upon the heavy 
air a long, low boom of distant thunder. Then they fell into 
their places and entered the cavern, the same unspoken 
thought in each man's mind — Would they ever behofd the 
fair light of day again ? 

And the distant, muttering thunder peal, hoarse, heavy, 
sullen, breaking upon the sultry air, at the moment when 
they left the outer world, struck them as an omen — the men- 
acing voice of outraged Nature booming the knell of those 
who had the temerity to seek to penetrate her innermost 
mysteries. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 



INFERNO. 

For the first forty yards the roof of the cave was so low that 
they had to advance in a stooping posture. Then it height- 
ened and the tunnel widened out simultaneously. Eustace led 
the way, his bull's-eye lantern strapped around him, throw- 
ing a wide disk of yellow light in front. Behind him, but 
keeping a hand on his shoulder in order to guide him, 
walked Josane ; the other two following in single file. 

A turn of the way had shut out the light from the en- 
trance. Eustace closing the slide of the lantern for a mo- 
ment, they were in black, pitchy darkness. 

A perceptible current of air blew into the cavern. That 
looked as if there should be an outlet somewhere. Old 
Josane, while enjoining silence upon the rest of the party, 
had, from the moment they had entered, struck up a low, 
weird, crooning song, which sounded like an incantation. 
Soon a glimmer of light showed just in front. 

" That is the other way in," muttered old Josane. " That 
is the way I came in. The other is the way 1 came out. 
Bau! •' 

An opening now became apparent — a steep, rock shaft, 
reaching away into the outer air. It seemed to take one or 
more turnings in its upward passage, for the sky was not 
visible, and the light only travelled down in a dim, chast- 
ened glimmer as though it was intercepted in its course. 
An examination of this extraordinary feature revealed the 
fact that it was a kind of natural staircase. 

" This is the way I came in. Ha ! " muttered Josane 
again, with a glare of resentment in his eyes as though re- 
calling to mind some particularly ignominious treatment — 
as he narrowly scrutinised the slippery, rocky sides of the 
shaft. 

" I suppose it'll be the best way for us to get out," said 
Hoste. " Anything rather than that devil of a scramble 
again." 

230 



INFERNO. 



*' The time to talk of getting out is not yet," rejoined the 
Kafir drily. " We are no*^, in yet." 

They resumed their way. As they penetrated deeper, the 
cavern suddenly slanted abruptly upwards. This continued 
for some twenty or thirty yards, when again the floor became 
level, though ever with a slight upward bend. Great slabs 
of rock projected from the sides, but the width of the tunnel 
varied little, ranging between six and ten yards. The same 
held good of its height. 

As they advanced they noticed that the current of air was 
no longer felt. An extraordinary foetid and overpowering 
atmosphere had taken its place. Similarly the floor and 
sides of the cavern, which before they reached the outlet had 
been moist and humid, now became dry and firm, 

" Hand us your flask, Shelton," said Hoste. " Upon my 
soul I feel as if I was going to faint. Faugh ! " 

The odour was becoming more and more sickening with 
every step. Musky, rank, acreous — it might almost be felt. 
Each man required a pull at something invigorating, if only 
to neutralize the inhalation of so pestilential an atmosphere. 
Smoking was suggested, but this Josane firmly tabooed. 

" It cannot be," he said. " It would be madness. Re- 
member my words, Amakosi. Look neither to the right nor to 
the left — only straight in front of you,, where you set down your 
steps." 

Then he resumed his strange wild chant, now sinking it 
to an awe-struck whisper hardly above his breath. It was a 
weird, uncanny sight, those four shadowy figures advancing 
through the thick black darkness, the fiery eye of the lantern 
darting forth its luminous column in front, while the deep- 
toned, long-drawn notes of the wild, heathenish rune died 
away in whispering echoes overhead. 

" Oh ! good Lord ! Look at that ! " 

The cry broke from Shelton. All started, so great was the 
state of tension that their nerves were undergoing. Follow- 
ing his glance they promptly discovered what it was that had 
evoked it. 

Lying upon a great slab of rock, about on a level with 
their chests, was an enormous puff-adder. The bloated pro- 
portions of the hideous reptile were disposed in a sinuous 
coil — shadowy, repulsive to the last degree, in the light of 
the lantern. A shudder ran through every one of the three 
white m.n. 



272 



'TWEEN SNOW AND EIRE. 



" Quick, Josane, Hand me one of your kerries," said 
Shelton. " I can get a whack at him now." 

But the Kafir, peremptorily, almost angrily refused. 

" VVhy did you not listen to ray words ? " he said. " Look 
neither to the right nor to the left, was what I told you. 
Then you would have seen nothing. Now let us move on." 

Rut Shelton and Hoste stood, irresolutely staring at the 
horrid reptile as though half fascinated. It — as if resenting 
the intrusion — began to imwind its sluggish folds, and raising 
its head, emitted a low, warning hiss, at the same time blow- 
ing itself out with a sound as of a pair of bellows collapsing, 
after the fashion which has gained for this most repulsive of 
all serpents its distinctive name. 

" You must not kill it," repeated the Kafir, in a tone al- 
most of command. "This is 'The Home of the Serpents,' 
remember. Did I not warn you ? " 

They saw that he was deadly in earnest. Here in this 
horrible den, right in the heart of the earth, the dark- 
skinned, superstitous savage seemed the one to command. 
It was perhaps remarkable that no thought of disobeying 
him entered the mind of any one of the three white men; 
still more so, that no resentment entered in either. They 
resumed their way without a murmur; not, however, without 
some furtive glances behind, as though dread ir g an attack 
on the part of the deadly reptile they were leaving in their 
rear. More than once they thought to detect the sound of 
that slow, crawling glide — to discern an indistinct and sinuous 
shadow moving in the subdued light. 

" This is ' The Home of the Serpents' I " chanted Josane, 
taking up once more his weird refrain. 

This is The Home of the Serpents, the abode of the Spirit-dead. O 
Inyoka 'nkulu,* do us no hurt ! O Snake of Snakes, harm us not ! 

" The shades * I thy liome are blackt r lhan blackest night. 

" We tread the dark shades of thy home in s'-arch of the white man's 
friend. 

" Give us back the while man's friend, so may we depart in peace — 
"In peace from The Home of the Serpents, th' abode of the Spirit-dead. 
" Into light from the awe-dealing gloom, where the shades of our 
fathers creep. 

"So may we return to the diylifjht in safety with him whom weseek. 
' ' Harm us noi, 
O Snake of snakes ! 
Do us no hurt, 
O Inyoka 'nkulu ! " 

* Great Serpent, 



INFERNO. 



273 



The drawn out notes of this lugubrious refrain were 
uttered with a strange, low, concent rati ve emphasis which was 
indescribably thrilling. Eustace, the only one of the party 
who thoroughly grasped its burden, felt curiously affected by 
it. The species of devil worship im;>iied in the heathenish 
invocation communicated its influence to himself. His 
spirits, up till now depressed and burdened as with a weight 
of brooding evil, seemed to rise to an extraordinary pitch of 
exaltation, as though rejoicing at the prospect of prompt 
admission into strange mysteries. Far otherwise, however, 
were the other two affected by the surroundings. Indeed, it 
is by no means certaiii that had their own inclinations been 
the sole guide in the matter, they would there and tlien have 
turned round and beat a hasty and ignominious retreat, 
leaving Tom Carhayes and his potential fate to the investi- 
gation of some more enterprising party. 

The atmosphere grew more foetid and pestilential. 
Suddenly the cavern widened out. Great slabs of rock jutted 
horizontally from the sides, sometimes so nearly meeting 
that there was only just room to pass in single file between. 
Then a low cry of horror escaped the three white men. 
They stopped short, as though they had encountered a row 
of fixed bayonets, and some, at any rate, of the party 
were conscious of the very hair on their heads standing 
erect. 

For, lying about upon the rock slabs were numbers of 
shadowy, sinuous shapes, similar to the one they had just dis- 
turbed. Some were lying apart, some were coiled up to- 
gether in a heaving, revolting mass. As the light of the 
lantern flashed upon them, they began to move. The hideous 
coils began to separate, gliding apart, head erect, and hissing 
till the whole area of the grisly cavern seemed alive with writh- 
ing, hissing serpents. Turn the light which way they would, 
there were the same great wriggling coils, the same frightful 
heads. Many, hitherto unseen, were pouring their loathsome, 
gliding shapes down the rocks overhead, and the dull, drag- 
ging heavy sound, as the horrible reptiles crawled over the 
hard and stony surface, mingled with that of strident hissing. 
What a sight to come upon in the heart of the earth ! 

It is safe to assert that no object in Nature is held in 
more utter and universal detestation by man than the serpent. 
And here were these men penned up within an under- 
ground cave in the very heart of the earth, with scores, if 



274 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



not hundreds, of these frightful and most deadly reptiles — 
some too, of abnormal size — around them; all on the move, 
and so near that it was as much as they could do to avoid 
actual contact. Small wonder that their flesh should creep 
and that every drop of blood should seem to curdle within 
their veins. It was a position to recur to a man in his 
dreams until his dying day." 

" Oh,. I can"t stand any more of this " said Hoste, who 
was walking last. " Hang it. Anything above ground, you 

know— but this ! Faugh ! We've got no show at all, 

Ugli— h ! " 

Something cold had come in contact with his hand. He 
started violently. But it was only the clammy surface of 
a projecting rock. 

And now the whole of the gloomy chamber resounded 
with shrill and angry hissing, as the disturbed reptiles 
glided hither and thither — was alive with waving necks and 
distended jaws, glimpsed shadowy on the confines of the 
disk of light which shot into the remote corners of the 
frightful den. Curiously enough, not one of the serpents 
seemed to be lying in the pathway itself. All were on the 
ledges of rock which bordered it. 

" Keep silence and follow close on my steps," said Josane 
shortly. Then he raised his voice and threw a marvellously 
strange, soft melodiousness into the weird song, which he 
had never ceased to chant. Eustace, who was the first to 
recover to some extent his self-possesion, and who took in 
the state of affairs, now joined in with a low, clear, whist- 
ling accompaniment. The effect was extraordinary. The 
writhing contortions of the reptiles ceased with a suddenness 
little short of magical. With heads raised and a slight 
waving motion of the neck they listened, apparently en- 
tranced. It was a wonderful sight, terrible in its weird 
ghastliness— that swarm of deadly serpents held thus 
spell-bound by the eerie barbaric music. It really 
looked as though there was more than met the eye in that 
heathenish adjuration as they walked unharmed through 
the deadly reptiles to the refrain of the long-drawn, lugubri- 
ous chant. 

" Harm us not, 
O Snake of Snakes 1 
Do us no hurt, 
OInyoka'nkiilu f" 



INFERNO. 



275 



Thus they passed through that fearful chamber, sotne- 
times within a couple of yards of two or three serpents lying 
on a level with their faces. Once it was all that even 
Eustace, the self-possessed, could do to keep himself from 
ducking violently as the head of a huge puff-adder noise- 
lessly shot up horribly close to his ear, and a very marked 
quaver came into his whistling notes. 

As the cavern narrowed to its former tunnel-like dimen- 
sions the serpents grew perceptibly scarcer. One or two 
would be seen to wriggle away, here and there ; then no 
more were met with. The sickening closeness of the air 
still continued, and now this stood amply accounted for. It 
was due to the foetid exhalations produced by this mass of 
noisome reptiles congregated within a confined space far 
removed from the outer air. 

" Faugh ! " ejaculated Hoste. " Thank Heaven these 
awful brutes seem to have grown scarce again. Shall we 
have to go back through them, Josane ? " 

''It is not yet time to talk of going back," was the grim 
reply. Then he had hardly resumed his magic song before 
he broke it off abruptly. At the same time the others 
started, and their faces blanched in the semi-darkness. 

For, out of the black gloom in front of them, not very far 
in front either, there burst forth such a frightful diaboli- 
cal howl as ever curdled the heart's blood of an appalled 
listener. 



CHAPTER XLV. 



A FEAKFUL DISCOVERY, 

They stood there, turned to stone. They stood there, 
strong men as they were, their flesh creeping with horror. 
The awful sound was succeeded by a moment of silence, then 
it burst forth again and again, the grim subterraneous walls 
echoing back its horrible import in ear-spliting reverbera- 
tion. It sounded hardly human in its mingled intonation 
of frenzied ferocity and blind despair. It might have been 
the shriek of a lost soul, struggling in the grasp of fiends on 
the brink of the nethermost pit. 

" Advance now, cautiously, amakosi," said Josane. 
" Look where you are stepping or you may fall far. Keep 
your candles ready to light. The Home of the Serpents is 
a horrible place. There is no end to its terrors. Be pre- 
pared to tread carefully." 

His warning was by no means superfluous. The ground 
ended abruptly across their path. Suddenly, shooting up, 
as it were, beneath their very feet, pealed forth again that 
frightful, blood-curdling yell. 

It was awful. Starting backward a pace or two, the per- 
spiration pouring from their foreheads, they stood and 
listened. On the Kafir no such impression had the 
incident effected. He understood the position in all its 
grim significance. 

"Look down," he said, meaningly, "Look down, 
amakosi." 

They did so. Before them yawned an irregular circular 
hole or pit, about thirty feet deep by the same in diameter. 
The sides were smooth and perpendicular ; indeed, slightly 
overhanging from the side on which they stood. Opposite, 
the glistening surface of the rock rose into a dome. But with 
this hoie the cavern abruptly ended, the main part of it, 
that is, for a narrow cleft or " gallery " branched off abruptly 
at right angles. From this pit arose such a horrible efflu- 
vium that the explorers recoiled in disgust. 

276 



A FEARFUL DISCOVERY. 



277 



" Look down. Look down," repeated Josane, 

The luminous disk from the lantern swept round the pit. 
Upon its nearly level floor crawled the loathsome, wngglmg 
shapes of several great serpents. Human skulls strewn about, 
grinned hideously upwards, and the whole floor of this 
ghastly hell-pit seemed literally carpeted with a crackling 
layer of pulverised bones. But the most awful sight of all 
was yet to come. 

Gathered in aheap, like a huge squatting toad, crouched a 
human figure. Human ? Could it be ? Ah ! it had been 
once. Nearly naked, save for a few squalid rags black 
with filth, this fearful object framed within the brilliantly 
defined circle of the bull's-eye, looked anything but human. 
The head and face were one mass of hair, and the long, 
bushy, tangled beard screening almost the whole body in its 
crouching attitude imparted to the creature the appearance 
of a head alone, supported on two hairy, ape-like arms, half 
man, half tarantula. The eyes were glaring and blinking in 
the light with mingled frenzy and terror, and the mouth was 
never still for a moment. AVhat a sight the grizzly denizen 
of that appalling hell-pit — crouching there, mopping and 
mowing among the gliding, noisome reptiles, among the in- 
describable filth and the grinning human skulls ! No wonder 
that the spectators stood spell -bound, powerless, with a 
nerveless, unconquerable repulsion. 

Suddenly the creature opened its mouth wide and emitted 
that fearful demoniacal howl which had frozen their blood 
but a few moments back. Then leaping to its feet, it made 
a series of desperate springs in its eff'orts to get at them. 
Indeed it was surprising the height to which these springs 
carried it, each failure being signalled by that blood-curd- 
ling yell. Once it Tell back upon a serpent. The reptile, 
with a shrill hiss, struck the offending leg. But upon the 
demoniac those deadly flangs seemed to produce no impres- 
sion whatever. Realising the futility of attempting to reach 
them, the creature sank back into a corner, gathering itself 
together, and working its features in wild convulsions. 
Then followed a silence — a silence in its way almost as hor- 
rible as the frightful shrieks which had previously broken it. 

The spectators looked at each other with ashy faces. 
Heavens ! could this fearful thing ever have been a man — 
a man with intellect and a soul — a man stamped with the 
image of his maker ? 



278 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



" He is the last, Amakost," said the grave voice of Josane. 
" He is the last, but not the first. There have been others 
before him," designating the skulls which lay scattered 
about. "Soon he will be even as they — as I should have 
been had I not escaped by a quick stroke of luck." 

"Great Heaven, Josane ! Who is he?" burst from the 
horror-gtricken lips of Shelton and Hoste simultaneously. 
Eustace said nothing, for at that moment as he gazed 
down upon the mouldering skulls, there came back to him 
vividly the witch-doctress's words, "They who look upon 
* The Home of the Serpents ' are seen no more in life." 
Well did he understand them now. 

" The man whom you seek," was the grave reply. " He 
whom the people call Umlilwane." 

An ejaculation of horror again greeted the Kafir's words. 
This awful travesty, this wreck of humanity, that this should 
be Tom Carhayes ! It was scarcely credible. What a 
fate ! Better had he met his death, even amid torture, at 
the time they had supposed, than be spared for such an end 
as this. 

Then amid the deep silence and consternation of pity 
which this lugubrious and lamentable discovery evoked, 
there followed an intense, a burning desire for vengeance 
upon the perpetrators of this outrage ; and this feeling found 
its first vent in words. Josane shook his head. 

"It might be done," he muttered. "It might be done. 
Are you prepared to spend several days in here, Amakosi? " 

This was introducing a new feature into the affair — the 
fact being that each of the three white men was labouring 
under a consuming desire to find himself outside the horri- 
ble hole once more— again beneath the broad light of day. 
It was in very dubious tones, therefore, that Shelton solic- 
ited an explanation. 

"Even a maniac must eat and drink," answered Josane. 
" Those who keep Umlilwane here do not wish him to 
die " 

You mean that some one comes here periodically to 
bring him food ?" 
"£wa." 

" But it may not be the persons who put him here ; only 
some one sent by them," they objected. 

" This place is not known to all the Gcal^ka nation," said 
Josane. " There are but two persons known to me who 



A FEARFUL DISCO VERV. 



would dare to come within a distance of it. Those are 
Ngcenika, the witch-doctress, and Hlangani, who is half a 
witch-doctor himself." 

" By lying in wait for them we might capture or shoot one 
or both of them when they come to bring the poor devil his 
food, eh, Josane ? " said Shelton. "When are they likely 
to come ? " 

" It may not be for days. But there is another side to 
that plan. What if they should have discovered that we are 
in here and decide to lie in wait for us?" 

" Oh, by Jove ! Th'at certainly is a reverse side to the 
medal," cried Hoste, with a long whistle of dismay. And 
indeed the idea of two such formidable enemies as the 
redoubted Gcaleka warrior and the ferocious witch-doctress 
lurking in such wise as to hold them entirely at their mercy 
was not a pleasant one. There was hardly a yard of the 
way where one determined adversary, cunningly ambushed, 
would not hold their lives in his hand. No. Any scheme 
for exacting reprisals had better keep until they were once 
more in the light of day. The sooner they rescued their 
unfortunate friend and got quit of the place the better. 

And even here they had their work fully cut out for them. 
How were they to get at the wretched maniac ? The idea 
of descending into that horrible pit was not an alluring one ; 
and, apart from this, what sort of reception would they meet 
with from its occupant ? That the latter regarded them in 
anything but a friendly light was manifest. How, then, were 
they ever to convey to the unfortunate creature that their 
object was the reverse of hostile ? Tom Carhayes was well 
known to be a man of great physical power. Tom Car- 
hayes — a gibbering, mouthing lunatic — a furious demoniac — 
no wonder they shrank from approaching him. 

" Silence ! Darken the light ! " 

The words, quick, low, peremptory — proceeded from 
Josane. In an instant Eustace obeyed. The slide of the 
lantern was turned. 

" I listen— I hear," went on the Kafir in the same quick 
whisper. " There are steps approaching." 

Every ear was strained to the uttermost. Standing in the 
pitchy blackness and on the brink of that awful pit, no one 
dared move so much as a foot. 

And now a faint and far-away sound came floating 
through the darknes.4 ; a strange sound, as of the soft bass of 



28o 



'TWEEN SNOW 



AND FIRE. 



voices from the distant spirit-world wailing weirdly along 
the ghostly walls of the tunnel. It seemed, too, that ever so 
faint a light was melting the gloom in the distance. The 
effect was indescribable in its awesomeness. The listeners 
held their very breath. 

" Up here," whispered Josane, referring to the shaft 
already mentioned. " No ! show no light — not a glimmer. 
Hold on' to each other's shoulder — you, Ixeshane, hold on 
to mine — Quick — Hamba-ke." * 

This precaution, dictated by the double motive of keep- 
ing together in the darkness, and also to avoid any one of 
the party accidentally falling into the pit — being observed, 
the Kafir led the way some little distance within the 
shaft. 

*' Heavens ! " whispered Hoste. " What about the 
snakes ? Supposing we tread on one ? " 

In the excitement of the moment this consideration had 
been quite overlooked. Now it struck dismay into the 
minds of the three white men. To walk along in pitch 
darkness in a narrow tunnel which you know to be infested 
with deadly serpents, with more than an even chance of 
treading upon one of the noisome reptiles at every step, is a 
position which assuredly needs a powerful deal of excite- 
ment to carry it through. 

^^Au.' Flash one beam of light in front, Ixeshane," 
whispered the guide. " Not behind — for your life, not 
behind ! " 

Eustace complied, carefully shading the sides of the light 
with the flaps of his coat. It revealed that the cave here 
widened slightly, but made a curve. It further revealed no 
sign of the most dreaded enemy of the human race. 

Here, then, it was decided to lie in wait. The lights 
carried by those approaching would hardly reach them 
here, and they could lurk almost concealed, sheltered by 
the formation of the tunnel. 

The flash from Eustace's lantern had been but momen- 
tary. And now, as they crouched in the inky gloom, the 
sense of expectation became painful in its intensity. 
Nearer and nearer floated the wailing chant, and soon the 
lurking listeners were able to recognise it as identical with 
the wild, heathenish rune intoned by their guide — the weird, 
mysterious invocation of the Serpent. 

* Go on. * 



A FEARFUL DISCOVERY. 



381 



" Harm US not, 
O Snake of snakes I 
Do us no hurt 
O Inyoka 'nkulu ! " 

The sonorous, open vowels rolled forth in long-drawn 
cadence, chanted by two voices — both blending in wonderful 
harmony. Then a cloud of nebulous light filled up the 
entrance to their present hiding place, hovering above the 
fearful hell-pit where the maniac was imprisoned, throwing 
the brink into distinct relief. 

The watchers held their very breath. The song had 
ceased. Suddenly there was a flash of light in their eyes, 
as from a lantern. 

Two dark figures were standing on the brink of the hole. 
Each carried a lantern, one of those strong, tin-rimmed 
concerns used by transport-riders for hanging in their 
waggon-tents. There was no lack of light now. 

" Ho, Umlilwane ! " cried a deep, bass voice, which rum- 
bled in hoarse echoes beneath the domed roof, while the 
speaker held his lantern out over the pit. " Ho, Umlil- 
wane ! It is the dog's feeding time again. We have 
brought the dog his bones. Ho, ho ! " 

The wretched maniac who, until now, had kept silence, 
here broke forth again into his diabolical howls. By the 
sound the watchers could tell that he was exhausting him- 
self in a series of bull-dog springs similar to those prompted 
by his frenzy on first discovering themselves. At each of 
these futile outbursts the two mocking fiends shouted and 
roared with laughter. But they little knew how near they 
were laughing for the last time. Three rifles were cover- 
ing them at a distance of fifty yards — three rifles in the 
hands of men who were dead shots, and whose hearts were 
bursting with silent fury. Josane, seeing this, took occa- 
sion to whisper under cover of the lunatic's frenzied 
howls : 

" The time is not yet. The witch-doctress is for me — for 
me. I will lure her in here, and when I give the word — 
but not before — shoot Hlangani. The witch-doctress is 
for me." 

The identity of the two figures was distinct in the light. 
The hideous sorceress, though reft of most of the horrid 
accessories and adornments of her order, yet looked cruel 
and repulsive as a very fiend — fitting figure to harmoniae 



282 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



with the Styx-like gloom of t'he scene. The huge form of the 
warrior loomed truly gigantic in the sickly lantern light. 

" Ho, Uralilwane, thou dog of dogs ! " went on the lat- 
ter. " Art thou growing tired of thy cool retreat ? Are 
not the serpents good companions? Haul Thou wert 
a fool to part so readily with thy mind. After so 
many moons of converse with the serpents, thou shouldst 
have been a mighty sootlisayer — a mighty diviner — by now. 
How long did it take thee to lose thy mind ? But a single 
day ? But a day and a night ? That was quick ! Ho, 
ho ! " And the great, taunting laugh was echoed by the 
shriller cackle of the female fiend. 

" Thou wert a mighty man with thy fists, a mighty man 
with thy gun, O Umlilwane ! " went on the savage, his 
mocking tones now sinking to those of devilish hatred. 
" But now thou art no longer a man — no longer a man. 
Au .' What were my words to thee? 'Thou hadst better 
have cut off thy right hand before shedding the blood 
of Hlangani, /i?;- is beiier to lose a hand than one s mind.' 
What thinkest thou now of Hlangani's revenge ? Hd !" 

How plain now to one of the listeners were those sombre 
words, over whose meaning he had so anxiously pondered. 
This, then, was the fearful vengeance promised by the 
Gcaleka warrior. And for many months his wretched vic- 
tim had lain here a raving maniac — had lain here in a 
darkness as of the very pit of hell — had lain among noi- 
some serpents — among crawling horrors untold — small won- 
der his reason had given way after a single night of such, 
as his tormentor had just declared. Small wonder that 
he had indeed lost his mind ! 

A fiendish yell burst from the maniac. Suddenly a great 
serpent was thrown upward from the pit. Petrified with 
horror, the watchers saw its thick, writhing form fly through 
the air and light on the witch doctress's shoulder. With a 
shrill laugh the hag merely seized the wriggling, squirming 
reptile, which, with crest waving, was hissing like a fury, 
and hurled it back into the pit again. What sort of 
devil's influence was protecting these people, that they 
could handle the most deadly reptiles with absolute impun- 
ity ? Were they, indeed, under some demoniac spell ? To 
one, however, among the white spectators, the real solution 
of the mystery may have suggested itself. 

" Here are thy bones, dog," resumed the great barbarian, 



A FEARFUL DISCOVERY. 



283 



throwing what looked like a half-filled sack into the hole. 
" Here is thy drink," and he lowered a large calabash at 
the end of a string. " Eat, drink, and keep up thy strength. 
Perhaps one day I may turn thee loose again. Who knows ! 
Then when thy people see thee coming they will cry : ' Here 
comes Hlangani's Revenge.' And they will fly from thee 
in terror, as from the approach of a fell disease." 

The watchers looked at each other. These last words, 
coupled with the act of throwing down the food, seemed to 
point to the speedy conclusion of the visit. They could hear 
the miserable victim mumbling and crunching what sounded 
like literally bones, and growling like a dog. But Hlangani 
went on. 

" Wouldst thou not rather have gone to feed the black 
ants, or have died the death of the red-hot stones, Umlil- 
wane ? Thou wouldst be at rest now. And now thou 
hast only just begun to live^alone in the darkness — alone 
with the serpents — a man whose mind is gone. Thou wilt 
never see the light of day again. Whau .' The sun is shining 
like gold outside. And thy wife, Umlilwane — thy beautiful 
wife — tall and graceful, like the stem of the budding 
umbona * — dost thou never think of her ? Hd ! There is 
another who does — another who does. J have seen 
him — I have seen them both — him and thy beautiful 
wife " 

Eustace had nudged Josaue in such wise as to make that 
individual understand that the curtain must be rung down 
on this scene — and that at once. Simultaneously the " yap " 
of a puppy dog burst forth almost beneath his feet. Its 
effect upon the pair at the pit's brink was electric. 

" Yau ! " cried Ngcenika, turning toward the sound. 
" The little dog has followed me in after all. Ah, the little 
brute. I will make him taste the stick ! " 

" Or throw him down to Umlilwane," laughed her com- 
panion, " He will do for him to play with, two dogs together. 
Mawo I " 

Again the " yap " was heard, now several times in rapid 
succession. So perfect was the imitation that the watchers 
themselves were for a moment taken in. 

" fza, inja ! Injane, izapa ! f cried the witch-doctress 
coaxingly, advancing into the lateral gallery, holding her 
* Maize. 

f Come, dog ! Litlle dog — come here ! 



284 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



lantern in front of her. Josane, with his mouth to the 
ground was emitting a perfect chorus of yaps. 

" Now " he whispered, under cover of the echoes pro- 
duced, as the width of the gallery left a clear charice at 
HIangani, without endangering the witch-doctress. Re- 
jnember— the female beast, Ngcenika, is for me. Shoot 
Hlapgani — Now.'" 

Scarce had the word left his mouth than the shots crashed 
forth simultaneously. 



CHAPTER XLVI. 



THE END OF THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 

To convey anything like an adequate idea of what fol- 
lowed is well-nigh impossible. The stunning, deafening 
roar of the volley in that narrow space was as though the 
very earth had exploded from its foundations. Through it 
came the shivering crash of glass, as Hlangani's lantern fell 
into the pit, but whether its owner followed it or not could 
not be determined through the overpowering din. Still hold- 
ing the lantern, the hideous witch-doctress was seen through 
the sulphurous smoke, standing there as one turned to 
stone — then like lightning, a dark, lithe body sprang through 
the spectators and with a growl like that of a wild beast 
leaped upon the bewildered Ngcenika. There was the 
gleam of an assegai in the air — then darkness and the shat- 
ter of glass. The lantern fell from the sorceress' hand. 

" Turn on the light, Milne ; quick ! " cried the other two, 

"I'm trying to, but the infernal thing won't work. The 
slide's jammed Oh ! " 

For he was swept off his feet. Two heavy bodies rolled 
over him— striving, cursing, struggling, stabbing — then half 
stumbled, half rolled away into the gloom beyond. 
_ The others betliought them of their candles, which, up 
till now, had been kept unused. Quickly two of them were 
produced and lighted. 

The din of the scuffle seemed to be receding further and 
further ; nor in the faint and flickering impression cast upon 
the cavernous gloom by the light of the candles could any- 
thing be seen of the combatants. But that the scuffle was 
a hard and fierce one was evident from the sounds. 

Just ther. Eustace succeeded in opening the lantern slide, 
and now they were able to advance boldly in the strong 
disk of light. The latter revealed the object of their 
search. 

Rolling over and over each other were two dark bodies, 
one now uppermost, now the other. Both seemed equally 

2f! = 



286 



'TWEEN SMOW AND FIRE. 



matched; even if in point of sheer physical strength the 
advantage did not lie slightly with the witch-doctress for 
Josane. though wiry and active, was a good deal older than 
he looked. Each firmly gripped the other s right jrist for 
the purpose of preventing the use of the broad-bladed, 
murderbus assegai with which the right hand of each was 
armed. Victory would He with whoever could hold out 

the longest. , ^ ,. ^ 

As soon as the light fell upon the two struggling bodies, 
the witch-doctress threw all her energies into afresh and vio- 
lent effort She seemed to divine that the new arrivals 
would refrain from shooting at her for fear of spring 
Josane. So she redoubled her struggles and kicked and 
bit and tore like one possessed. „ „„h 

Keep her in that position a moment, Josane, ^ sung ouc 
Hoste. " I'll put a hunk of lead through the devil s carcase. 

'^^ButTt was not to be. With a supreme effort she wrenched 
her wrist free from her opponent's grasp, and turning with 
the rapidity of a cat, leaped out of sight m the darkness 
But a moment later she stumbled over a boulder and 
sprawled headlong. Before she could nse \er pursuer was 
upon her and had stabbed her twice through the body with 

his^ass^egai.^ of a Fingo dog ! " cried Josane, his voice 
assuming a Berce, throaty growl in the delirious satiety of 
his v^n.eance. " I am Joslne-whom thou wouldst have 
thrown to the serpents, as thou didst this white man-ha! 
whom thou wouldst have given alive to feed the black 
ants, as thou didst Vudana, my kmsman Ha ! I am 
Josane, who was eaten up at thy accursed bidding. Ha^ 
But I lived for revenge and It has come. Ha! How 
does this feel ?— and this ?— and this ? 

With each ejaculation " ha ! " he had plunged his assegai 
into the writhing body of the prostrate 7^f-^^°,^^'^^^f^-^^,^^ 
the white men his aspect was that of a fiend-standing 
there in the cavernous gloom, his eyes rolling in f enzy 
literallv digging with his spear into the body of his van 
hed enfmyfoutof whii. the red blood was squirtmg 
in a dozen great jets. Not until the corpse had entirely 
ceased to move did he cease his furious stabs. 

The h?ll-hag is dead ! " he cried, as he at length turned 
to leave. - The hell-hag is dead," he repeated, tummg the 



THE END OF THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 287 



words into a fierce chant of exultation. "The hell-hag 
bleeds, and my revenge is sweet. Ha ! Revenge is brighter 
than the sun in the heavens, for it is red, blood red. Ha ! 
Mine enemy is dead ! " 

By this time they had returned to the brink of the pit. But 
there was no sign of Hlangani. Something like dismay was 
on every face. The fragments of his shattered lantern lay 
strewn about at the bottom of the hole, but of the savage 
himself there was no sign. It was marvellous. All three 
men were first-rate shots. It was impossible that any one of 
them could have missed him at that distance, let alone all 
three. How could he have got away with three bullets in 
his body? 

Cautiously they hunted everywhere with increasing anx- 
iety, but nothing occurred to reward their search. The lat- 
ter led them almost back to the great rock-chamber where 
the serpents swarmed. Still no sign of Hlangani. 

This was serious in the extreme. They would have their 
hands full enough with the wretched maniac, even if they 
succeeded in bringing him away at all ; and the idea that 
the fierce Gcaleka, desperately wounded perhaps, might be 
lying in wait, in some awkward place, ready to fall upon 
them with all the reckless, despairing ferocity of a cornered 
leopard, was anything but encouraging. Or, what if he had 
escaped altogether, and were to bring back a swarm of his 
countrymen to cut off their retreat. 

" I lell you what it is," said Hoste. " The sooner we get 
this poor chap out, and clear out ourselves, the better." 

This was true enough ; but how to act upon it was an- 
other thing. 

Several candles were lighted and stuck about on the rocks, 
making the black, gloomy cavern a trifle less sepulchral. 
Then they advanced to the pit's brink. The lunatic, crouched 
on the ground gnawing a bone, stared stupidly at them. 

" Don't you know me, Tom ? " said Eustace, speaking 
quietly. " We are come to get you away from here, old 
chap. You know me ? Come now ! " 

But the poor wretch gave no sign of intelligence, as he 
went on munching his revolting food. Several times they 
tried him, each in different ways, but always without suc- 
cess. It was pitiable. 

" We shall have to get him out by force," said Shelton. 
"But how the deuce we are going to do it beats me." 



288 



'TWEEN SNOW AN J) F]RE. 



" We might lasso him with a reim, and haul him up that 
way," suggested Hoste. 

" I had thought of that," said Eustace. " First of all, 
though, I'm going to have another try at suaviier in modo. 
He may recognise me — nearer." 

" Nearer ? What ? How ? You are never going down 
there cried Shelton. 

" That's just what I am going to do. Where's that long 
reim, Josane ? " 

This was the long, stout rawhide rope they had brought 
with them in case it might be wanted for climbing purposes. 
Quickly Eustace had made a running noose in it. 

" I hope you're in good hard form, Milne," said Shelton 
gravely. " The poor chap may try and tear you to pieces. 
I wouldn't risk it, if I were you." 

" And the snakes ? " put in Hoste. " What about the 
snakes ? " 

" I shall have to chance them," returned Eustace, having 
a shrewd suspicion that the reptiles had been rendered 
harmless by the extraction of their fangs, and were, in fact, 
kept there by the witch-doctress in order to lend additional 
horror to this inferno, whither she consigned her victims. 
Even then the act of descending into that noisome pit, with 
the almost certainty of a hand-to-hnnd struggle with a raging 
lunatic of enormous strength, was an ordeal calculated to 
daunt the stoutest of hearts. Certain it is that neither of 
the other two would have cared to undertake it. More than 
ever, then, did they endeavour to dissuade him. 

"This is my idea," he said. "I must try and get him 
round against this side of the hole. Then, while I hold his 
attention, Josane must drop his blanket over his head. 
Then I'll fling the noose round him, and you must all man 
the reim, and haul him up like a sack. Only it must be 
done sharp. Directly I sing owi'Trek; you must haul away 
for dear life." 

" But how about yourself, old chap ? " 

" Never mind about me. I can wait down there until 
you're ready for me. But when you have got him up here 
you must tie him up as tight as a log, and sharp, too. Now, 
Josane, is your blanket ready ? " 

The old Kafir, who had been knotting a small stone into 
each corner so that the thing should fall quickly, answered 
in the affirmative. In a second the rcim was dropped over 



THE END OF THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 289 



the side, and Eustace, sliding down, stood at the bottom of 
the pit. 

The indescribably fearful effluvium fairly choked him. 
He felt dizzy and faint. The lunatic, still crouching at the 
other side, made no aggressive movement, merely staring 
with lack-lustre eyes at the new arrival. Keeping his eye 
upon him, Eustace took advantage of this welcome truce to 
feel for his flask and counteract his fast overpowering 
nausea with a timely pull. 

Tom," he said, in a most persuasive tone, approaching 
the wretched being. " Tom — you know me, don't you ? " 

Then an awful change came into the maniac's counte- 
nance. His eyes glared through the tangle of his matted 
hair ; the great bushy beard began to bristle and quiver with 
rage. He rose to his feet and, opening his mouth, emitted 
that same horrible howl. Those above held their breath. 

Well for Eustace was it that he never quailed. Standing 
there in the middle of the pit— at the mercy of this furi- 
ous lunatic — he moved not a muscle. But his eyes held 
those of the demoniac with a piercing and steady gaze. 

The crisis was past. Whimpering like a child, the 
wretched creature sank to the ground, again covering his 
face with his hands. 

This was good enough as a first triumph, but the maniac 
had to be coaxed round to the other side of the hole. 
Eustace dared not remove his glance, even for the fraction 
of a second. His foot struck against something, which 
yielded suddenly and started away hissing. His pulses 
stood still with horror, yet he knew better than to remove 
his eyes from his unhappy kinsman. 

"Come, Tom," he said coaxingly, advancing a couple of 
steps. " Get up, man, and go and sit over there." 

With an affrighted cry, the other edged away round the 
wall of his prison, bringing himself much nearer the point 
where it was intended he should be brought. He cowered, 
with face averted, moaning like an animal in pain. Not to 
overdo the thing, Eustace waited a moment, then advanced 
a step or two nearer. It had the desired effect. The mad- 
man shuffled away as before. He must be in the right 
place now. Still Eustace dared not look up. 

*' He's all right now, if you're ready," whispered a 
voice from above. 

" Ready ! " was the quick reply. 



290 



'TIVEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Something dropped. The madman's head and shoulders 
disappeared under the voluminous folds of old Josane's red 
blanket. Quick as lightning Eustace had sprung to his 
side and whipped the running noose round him. 

" Trek " / he cried, with an energy sufficient to start a 
dozen spans of oxen. 

The body of Tom Carhayes swung into the air. Kicking, \ 
struggling, howling, he disappeared over the brink above. 
Eustace, alone at the bottom of the pit, could hear the 
sounds of a furious scuffle — sounds, too, which seemed to be 
receding as though into distance. What did it all mean? 
They seemed a long time securing the maniac. 

Then, as he looked around this horrible dungeon, at the 
crawling shapes of the serpents gliding hither and thither, 
hissing with rage over their late disturbance, as he breathed 
the unspeakably noisome atmosphere, he -realised his own 
utter helplessness. What if anything untoward should 
occur to prevent his comrades from rescuing him ? Life was 
full of surprises. They might be attacked by a party of 
Kafirs, brought back there by the missing Hlangani, for in- 
stance. What if he had merely exchanged places with his 
unfortunate kinsman and were to be left there in the dark- 
ness and horror ? How long would he be able to keep his 
reason ? Hardly longer than the other, he feared. And 
the perspiration streamed from every pore, as he began to 
realise what the miserable maniac had undergone. 

A silence had succeeded to the tumult above. What did 
it mean ? Every second seemed an hour. Then, with a 
start of unspeakable relief, he heard Hoste's voice above. 

" Ready to come up, old chap ? " 

" Very much so. Why have you taken so long ? " he 
asked anxiously. 

" We had to tie up poor Tom twice, you know ; first with 
the big ni'm, then with others. Then we had to undo the 
big retm again. Here it is," chucking it over. 

Eustace slipped the noose under his armpits, and, having 
given the word to haul away, a very few moments saw him 
among them all again. The mad man was securely bound 
and even gagged, only his feet being loosened sufficiently 
to enable him to tace short steps. 

So they started on their return track, longing with a 
greater longing than words can tell, to breathe the open air, 
to behold the light of day again. 



THE END OE THE WI TCil-DOC J KESS. 



291 



To their astonishment the poor lunatic became quite 
tractable. As long as Eustace talked to him, he was quiet 
enough and walked among the rest as directed. One more 
repellent ordeal had to be gone through— the serpents' den, 
to wit. This they had now almost reached. 

Suddenly a warning cry went up from Josane, who re- 
coiled a step. 

''All! Kang/laf"* 

A face was peering at them from over a rock slab a few 
feet overhead. A black face, with glazing eyes and half- 
parted lips, and such a scowl of hate upon the distorted 
features, in the darkness, as was perfectly devilish. Quickly 
every weapon was aimed at the head and as quickly lowered. 
For they realised that it was the head of a dead man. 

" Why, it's Hlangani ! Let's see where we pinked him," 
said Shelton, climbing up to the ledge, followed by Hoste. 
" By Jove ! he's plugged himself where we plugged him," he 
went on. " That accounts for iiis leaving no blood spoor." 

He had. There were two great holes in the dead man's 
ribs, where the bullets had entered. Both wounds were 
mortal. But, with the desperate endurance of his race, the 
stricken warrior had rent off fragments of his blanket and 
had deliberately plugged the gaping orifices. Then, crawling 
away, the fierce savage had sought oat a position where he 
might lurk in ambush, and had found it, too. Here be laj% 
a broad assegai still grasped in his hand, waiting to strike 
one fell and fatal blow at his slayers ere death should come 
upon him. But death had overtaken him too quickly ; and 
luckily, indeed, for the objects of his enmity that it had. 

" Why, how's this ? " cried Shelton in amazement. " I 
could have sworn I hit him, and yet there are only two bullet 
holes ! " 

" So could I," said Hoste emphatically. " Sure there are 
only two ? " 

" Dead certain," replied the other, after a second investi- 
gation. 

" I think I can solve the mystery," cut in Eustace quietly. 
" You both hit, all right. The fact is, 1 never fired." 

" Never fired ! " they echoed. " And why the deuce 
not ? " 

" Well, you see, this very Hlangani saved my life. I 
might have been put down there with poor Tom, but for 
* " Look there 1 " 



292 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



him. Whatever he had done I couldn't bring myself to 
' draw ' on a fellow who had done that much for me." 

There was something in that, yet Eustace thought he de- 
tected a curious look pass between his two friends. But it 
mattered nothing. 

Leaving the body of the dead Gcal^ka, the two climbed 
down from the ledge again. Further surprise was in store 
for them. Josane had disappeared. 

" He'll be back directly," said Eustace. " He said he had 
forgotten something." 

Whether it was that the sight of the dead warrior's body 
had inspired in him one of those unreasoning and unac- 
countable outbreaks of savagery to which all barbarian 
natures are more or less suddenly liable, or whether he had 
misgivings on his own account as to the completeness of his 
vengeance, is uncertain. But rapidly muttering; "^w.' 
Ixeshane ! I have not drunk enough blood. Wait here 
until I return," he had seized his assegai and dis- 
appeared in the direction of the pit again. Those under 
his guidance had no alternative but to await his return with 
what patience they might. 

Meanwhile Josane was speeding along the gloomy tunnel, 
eagerly, fiercely, like a retriever on the track of a wounded 
partridge. His head was bent forward and his hand still 
grasped the broad assegai, clotted with the blood of the 
witch-doclress. Humming a low, ferocious song of ven- 
geance, he gained the brink of the now empty pit. Seizing 
one of the lighted candles, which still burned — no one having 
thought it worth while to put them out — he turned his steps 
into the lateral gallerv. A fiendish chuckle escaped him. 
He stopped short, threw the light in front of him, then held 
it over his head and looked again. Again he chuckled. 

^'Au! " he cried, " there is more revenge, more blood. I 
thirst for more blood. Ha ! The witch is not dead yet. 
Where art thou, Ngcenika, spawn of a she-Fingo dog ? 
Where art thou, that my broad umkonto may drink again of 
thy foul blood ? Lo ! " 

The last ejaculation escaped him in a quick gasp. Just 
outside the circle of light he beheld a shadowy object, which 
seemed to move. It was the form of the wretched witch- 
doctress. He gathered himself together like a tiger on the 
spring. 

" Ho ! Ngcenika," he cried, in a tone of exultation 



THE END OF THE WITCH-DOCTRESS. 293 



mingled with suppressed fury. " Thou art not dead yet— 
toad — carrion bird ! " . 

He was standing over the inanimate form, his assegai 
uplifted in his right hand, in his left the dim and sputtering 
candle. He made a feint to plunge it into her body, then 
as rapidly withdrew it. . , , tt 11 

" Ha ! I have a better plan. Thou shalt take Umhl- 

wane's place." , 

He stuck his candle on a projecting slab of rock then 
bending down he laid hold of the witch-doctress by the 
feet and began to drag her along the ground. She was 
massive in her proportions, and he did not make rapid 
headway ; the more so that the wretched creature began to 
struggle, though feebly, for she had lost an enormous 
quantity of blood, and indeed but for the endurance of her 
race, which dies as hard as it lives, life would have been ex- 
tinct in her long ago. It was a horrible scene. The al- 
most nude body of the hag was one mass of blood, whicii, 
coagulated over a dozen ghastly wounds, now began to 
well forth afresh ; the muscular, half-bent form of the grim 
old warrior, glistening with perspiration, as with the blaze of 
unsatiated revenge burning in his eyes he dragged her alotvg 
that grisly cavern floor. Tugging, hauling, j)erspinng, 
growling, he at length reach ea the brow of the pit with his 
ghastly freight. Then pausing a moment, with a devilish 
grin on his face, to contemplate the object of his deadly 
rancour, he pushed the body over. A dull thud and a 
smothered groan told that it had reached the bottom. 

''Hau ! hell cat— toad's spawn ! " he cried. " How do you 
feel down there? Where is the great witch-doctress of the 
Gcal^ka nation now ? Where is Sarili's great councillor of 
the Spirit-world now ? With those whom her wizard arts 
destroyed. Men, brave fighring men all, were they— what 
are they now ? Bones, skulls, among which the serpents 
crawl in and out," and as if to emphasise his words, a hiss- 
ing went forth from the reptiles disturbed by this new inva- 
sion of their prison house. "Ha, ha, ha !" he laughed. 
"Wise witch-doctress, thou canst 'smell out ' their spirits 
once more in the darkness before thou diest. Thou art a 
great magician, but the magic of the white men— the magic 
of Ixeshane— is greater than thine, and it has delivered 
thee into my hand. r i. * 

"Hlangani, the valiant— the fighting chief of the Ama 



294 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



Gcaleka — the herald of Sarili — is dead. Hau!" Then 
raising his voice to a high taunting pitch, he cried, " where 
is Maqwela, the warrior who struck the Amanglezi in three 
wars ? His skull is beside thee — talk to it. Where is 
Mpunhla, ersewhile my friend ? He, too, was condemned to 
* The Home of the Serpents ' by thee. He, too, is beside 
thee. Where is Vudana, my kinsman ? The black ants 
have picked his bones. This, too, was thy work, and I, 
Josane, would be even as they, but that I have been re- 
served to deal out vengeance to their slayer ! And now 
when Sarili — when the amapakati of the house of 
Gcaldka call for their wise witch-doctress, they will call long 
and loud but will get no answer, for *The Home of the Ser- 
pents' yields not up its secrets. Fare thee well, Ngcenika ; 
rest peacefully. My vengeance is complete. Hlala-gahle ! " 

The weird flickering light of the dying candles danced 
on the figure of the savage standing there on the brink of 
that horrible hell-pit, gibing at his once terrible but now 
vanquished foe. Verily there was an appropriateness, a 
real poetic justice in the fate which had overwhelmed this 
female fiend. Many a man had she doomed to this awful, 
this unspeakably horrible fate, through the dictates of re- 
venge, of intrigue, or of sheer devilish, gratuitous savagery. 
They had languished and died — some in raving mania — 
here in black darkness and amid horrors unspeakable. Now 
the same fate had overtaken herself. 

Josane paused. The groans of his victim were becom- 
ing fainter and fainter. 

"Hau! It is music lo my ears," he muttered. Then, 
turning, he deliberately blew out all the lights save the one 
that he carried, and once more humming his fierce impro- 
vised song of vengeance, he sped away through the gloom 
to rejoin his white companions, leaving this horrible pit of 
Tophet to the grisly occupancy of its hissing, crawling ser- 
pents and its new but fast dying human denizen. 



CHAPTER XLVII. 



INTO SPACE. 

" Heavens ! What a glorious thing is the light of day ! " 
exclaimed Hoste, looking around as if he never expected to 
behold that blessing again, instead of havmg just been 
restored to it. . 

" Let's hope that philosophical reflection will console us 
throughout our impending ducking," rejoined Eustace drily. 
"We are going to get it in half an hour at the outside. 

Great storm clouds were rolling up beyond the Bashi 
Valley. The same brooding stillness, now greatly intensified, 
hung in the air ; broken every now and again by fitful red 
flashes and the dull, heavy boom of thunder. The far off 
murmur of the river rose up between its imprisoning krantzes 
and steep forest-clad slopes to the place where their halt 

was made. . • , i • 

They had emerged safely to the upper air with their 
unfortunate and oft-times troublesome charge. Recognis- 
ing the impracticability of conveying the latter along the 
perilous causeway which had taxed their own powers so 
severely, they had elected to try the other way out, to wit, 
the vertical shaft, beneath which they had passed shortly 
after first entering the cavern, and, after a toilsome climb, 
by no means free from danger, burdened as they were with 
the unhappy lunatic, had- regained the light of day in 
safety. 

But their difficulties and dangers were by no means at an 
end. For the first, they were a long way above the spot 
where they had left their horses. To regain this would take 
several hours. It was frightfully rugged and tangled coun- 
try, and they had but an hour of daylight left. Moreover 
a tremendous thunderstorm was working up, and one that, 
judging by the heavy aspect of the clouds, and the brooding 
sense of oppression in the atmosphere, threatened to last the 
best part of the night. For the second, they had every reason 
to believe that these wild and broken fastnesses of bush and 



293 



296 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



rock held the lurking remnants of the Gcal^ka bands who 
were still under arms, and should these discover the presence 
of intruders, the position of the four men, dismounted, 
scantily supplied with food, and hampered with their worse 
than useless charge, would be serious indeed. 

The latter they still deemed it necessary to keep carefully 
secured. His transition to the upper air had effected a 
curious -change in him. He was no longer violent. He 
seemed dazed, utterly subdued. He would blink and shut 
his eyes, as if the light hurt them. Then he would open 
them again and stare about him with a gaze of the most 
utter bewilderment. A curious feature in his demeanour 
was that the world at large seemed to excite his interest 
rather than its living inhabitants. In these, as represented 
by his rescuers, he seemed to evince no interest at all. His 
gaze would wander past them, as though unaware of their 
presence, to the broad rugged river-valley, with its soar- 
ing krantzes and savage forest-clad depths, as if he had 
awakened in a new world. And indeed he had. Think of 
it! Seven or eight months spent in utter darkness ; seven or 
eight months without one glimmer of the blessed light of 
Heaven ; seven or eight months in the very bowels of the 
earth, in starvation and filth, among living horrors which 
had turned his brain ; the only glint of light, the only sound 
of the human voice vouchsafed to him being on those 
occasions when his barbarous tormentors came to taunt him 
and bring him his miserable food ! Small wonder that the 
free air, the light, and the spreading glories of Nature, had 
a dazing, subduing effect on the poor lunatic. 

His own safety necessitated tlie continuance of his 
bonds — that of his rescuers, that he should be kept securely 
gagged. It would not do, out of mistaken kindness, to run 
any risks ; to put it in the poor fellow's power to break forth 
into one of his paroxysms of horrible howls, under circum- 
stances when their lives might depend upon secrecy and 
silence. It would be time enough to attempt the restoration 
of the poor clouded brain, when they should have conveyed 
him safe home again. It was a curious thing that necessity 
should oblige his rescuers to bring him back bound as 
though a prisoner. 

Their camp— l ather their halting place, for caution would 
preclude the possibility of building a fire — had been decided 
upon in a small bushy hollow, a kind of eyrie which would 



INTO SPACE. 



297 



enab e them to keep a wide look out upon the river valley 
for many miles, while affording them a snug and tolerably 
secure place of concealment. In front a lofty krantz m 
sheer io a depth of at least two hundred feet. Behmd their 
retreat was shut in by a line of bush-grown rocks. It was 
going o be a wet and comfortless night. The storm was 
drawing nearer and nearer, and they would soon be soaked 
to the skin, their waterproof wraps having been left wuh tlie 
horses. Food, too, was none too plentiful-mdeed, beyond 
some biscuit and a scrap or two of cold meat, they had none. 
Bat these were mere trivial incidents to such practised cam- 
paigners. They had succeeded in their quest— they had 
^esJued a friend and comrade from a fate ten thousand-fold 
more hideous than the most fearful form of death ; moreover, 
as Hoste had remarked, the light of day alone, even when 
seen through streaming showers, was glorious when com- 
pared with the utter gloom of that awful cave and the heav- 
ing, hissing, revolting masses of its serpent denizens. Un 
the' whole they felt anything but down-hearted. _ 

" I tell you what it is, Hoste," said Shelton, seizmg the 
moment when Eustace happened to be beyond earshot. 
" There have been a good many nasty things said and hinted 
about Milne of late ; but I should just like to see any 
one of the fellows who have said them do what he did. 
Heavens ' The cool nerve he showed in deliberately going 
down into that horrible hole with the chances about even 
between being strangled by poor Tom there, or bitten by 
a puff-adder, was one of the finest things I ever sa\v in my 
life. It's quite enough to give the lie to all these infernal 
reports, and I'll take care that it does, too." 

" Rather. But between you and me and J osane there, 
who can't understand us," answered Hoste, lowering his 
voice instinctively, " it's my private opinion that poor Milne 
has no particular call to shout ' Hurrah' over the upshot of our 
expedition. P:h ? Sort of Enoch Arden business, don t 
you know Likely to prove inconvenient for all parties. 

" So ? All the more to his credit, then, that he moved 
heaven and earth to bring it about. By Jove ! I believe 
I'd have thought a long while before going down there 

'"^'^Rather. But I can't help being deuced sorry for 
him ** 

It need hardly be said that Hoste had indeed put the 



298 



'TWEEiV SNOW AND FIRE. 



whole case into a nutshell as far as Eustace was concerned. 
Even then, lying there on the brink of the cliff above men- 
tioned, and whither he had withdrawn on the preterce of 
keeping a look out, but really in order to be alone, he was 
indulging in the full bitterness of his feelings. All had 
come to an end. The cup had been dashed from his lips. 
The blissful glow of more than earthly happiness iri which 
he had moved for the past few months, had turned to blight 
and ruin and blackness, even as the cloudless sunlight of the 
morning had disappeared into the leaden terrors of the on- 
coming storm. Would that from it a bolt might fall which 
should strike him dead ! 

Even in the full agony of his bitterness he could not wish 
that the awful fate of his cousin had ever remained a mystery, 
could not regret the part he had borne in rescuing him from 
that fate. It might be that the minutes he himself had 
spent, helpless at the bottom of the noisome pit, had brought 
home to his mind such a vivid realisation of its horrors as 
those surveying it from the brink could never attain. Any- 
way, while musing upon his own blighted life, his dream of 
love and possession suddenly and cruelly quenched, he 
could not wish the poor wretch back in such a living hell 
again. 

Yet for what had he been rescued ? Of what value was 
the life of a raving, gibbering maniac to himself or the 
world in general? And this was the thing to which Eans- 
wyth was now bound. A warm, beautiful, living body 
chained to a loathsome, festering corpse ; and his had been 
the hand which had forged the links, his the hand which 
had turned the key in the padlock. He could not even lay 
to his soul the flattering unction that the unfortunate man 
would eventually succumb to the after results of his hor- 
rible sufferings. Lunatics, barring accidents, are proverb- 
ially long-lived, and Tom Carhayes had the strength and 
constitution of an elephant. He would be far more likely 
to injure other people than himself. 

Meanwhile, those left in camp were resting appreciatively 
after their labours, and conversing. 

" Amakosi" said Josaue, with a queer smile. " Do yoti 
think you could find the ' The Home of the Serpents ' 
again ? 

" Why, of course," was the unhesitating reply. The old 
Kafir grinned. 



INTO SPACE. 



299 



" Do you mean to say you don't believe we could ? " said 
Hoste, in amazement. 

" Yes, amakosi. I do not believe you could," was the un- 
hesitating rejoinder. . 

" What — when we have only just come out of it ? 

The old Gcal^ka grinned harder than ever. 

" I do not believe you could light on the exact way in 
from either side," he repeated. 

" Well, by Jove ! I believe he's right," said Hoste dubi- 
ously, as he went over in his mind the inexplicable way 
in which both entrances were concealed, and that by the 
hand of Nature. 

"Right about what?" said another voice, whose owner 
rejoined the circle at that moment. 

" Why, what do you think Josane is trying to cram us 
with, Milne ? He swears we couldn't find the entrance of 
that infernal hole again." 

"Well, I don't believe we could, " said Eustace quietly. 
"But that's no great disadvantage, for I suppose none of 
us will ever be smitten with the remotest inclination to 
try." 

" Not I, for one," assented Hoste. " I wouldn't go 
through those awful, beastly heaps of snakes again— faugh ! 
—not for a thousand pounds. Hallo ! It's coming ! " 

A roll of thunder — longer, louder, nearer— caused them to 
look upward. The whole heavens were shrouded in masses 
of black, angry clouds, sweeping slowly onward. 

Then, as their glances sought the earth again, a quick 
whistle of amazement escaped Shelton. It found a ready 
echo in a startled ejaculation from the others, 

" Where is he ? " 

For the place occupied by the unfortunate lunatic knew 
him no more. He had disappeared. 

For i second they stared blankly into each others' faces, 
then all four moved forward instinctively. 

He had been sitting idly, vacantly, perfectly quietly 
staring into space. In the height of their conversation they 
had given little heed to his presence. Well, he could not 
go far, for his legs were so secured as to preclude him mak- 
ing steps of ordinary length. 

The place was bushy, but not very thickly so. Spread- 
ing out they entered the scrub by the only side on which 
he could have disappeared. 



3O0 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE. 



"There he is !" cried Hoste suddenly, when they had 
gone about fifty yards. 

Slinking along in a crouching attitude, slipping from bush 
to bush, they spied the poor fellow. That was all right. 
There would be no difficulty now. 

No difficulty ? Was there not ? As soon as he saw that 
he was .discovered he began to run — to run like a buck. 
And then, to their consternation, they perceived that his 
legs were free. I?y some means or other he had contrived, 
with a lunatic's stealthy cunning, to cut the reim which had 
secured them. They could see the severed ends flapping 
as he ran. 

" Well, we've got to catch him, poor chap, so here goes," 
said Hoste, starting with all his might in pursuit. 

But the maniac wormed in and out of the bushes with 
marvellous rapidity. Shelton had tripped and come a head- 
long cropper, and Hoste was becoming blown, but they 
seemed to get no nearer. Suddenly the bush came to an 
end. Beyond lay a gradual acclivity, open and grassy, 
ending abruptly in air. 

" Heavens !" cried Eustace in a tone of horror. "The 
kraniz ! " 

His tones found an echo in those of his companions- 
The precipice in front was a continuation of the lofty per- 
pendicular cliff which fell away from the front of their halting 
place. Any one who should go over that giddy brink would 
leave no sort of shadow of uncertainty as to his fate. They 
stopped in their pursuit. 

"Tom!" cried Eustace persuasively, "Come back, old 
chap. It's going to rain like fits in a minute. You'll be 
much snugger at the camp." 

The lunatic, now half-way across the open, stopped at 
the voice and stood listening. Then he rain forward again, 
but at a decreased pace. Heavens ! He was only twenty 
yards from the brink. His pursuers were more than twice 
that distance behind. Any move forward would inevitably 
have the effect of driving him over. 

I, "What are we to do?" gasped Hoste, exhausted by the 
mingled exertion and excitement. 

" We had better leave him alone, and watch him from 
where he can't see us," was Eustace's reply. 

The poor fellow had now gained the very brink. Then 
he turned, but his pursuers had deftly concealed themselves 



/N70 SPACE. 



301 



behind a small bush which opportunely grew in the midst 
of the open. His hands were still tied fast, and the gag was 
in his mouth. If only they could have reached him. 

He stood for a moment, balanced on the edge of the 
abyss, looking in^o it. Then he turned again. There was 
a horrible leer of triumphant insanity upon the distorted 
face as his gaze failed to discover the presence of anybody 
likely to prove hostile. 

The thunder rolled out heavily from overhead, and the 
figure of the maniac stood in bold relief against the leaden 
sky, photographed in black relief against the red flashes of 
lightning which played with well-nigh unintermittent incan- 
descence athwart the storm cloud beyond. There he stood, 
his features working horribly, the tangled masses of his 
beard and hair floating in the fitful gusts which came 
whistling up from the dizzy height. Never, to their dying 
day, would the spectators forget the sight. Yet they could 
do nothing. 

With a choking cackle, like an attempt at a laugh, the 
maniac turned again to the awful height. The spectators 
held their breaths and their blood ran cold. Then they 
saw him gather his legs beneath him and spring far out into 
space. 

Petrified with horror, they rushed to the brink and peered 
over. The smooth rock face fell without a break down to 
the treetops at a dizzy depth beneath. These were still 
quivering faintly as though recently disturbed. But at that 
moment heaven's artillery roared in one vast deafening, 
crackling roll. The air was ablaze with vivid blue flame, 
and driven before the tornado blast, sheet upon sheet of 
deluging rain crashed down upon them, beating them to the 
earth by the very weight and fury of its volume. 



ENVOI. 



RrNG we the curtain down— for our tale is ended and we 
have no desire to point a moral thereto. Years have gone 
by and new homesteads have risen upon the ashes of the 
old ones ; and flocks and herds are once more grazing in 
security upon those grassy plains, those pleasant plains, so 
sunny, so peaceful, so smiling. 

And how the broken and decimated tribes were settled on 
new locations, and how the ringleaders and prominent 
fighting men of those who owned British allegiance were 
sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, and how the 
Gaika location was parcelled out into farms, and as such 
leased by the Department of Crown Lands to white settlers ; 
and how in consideration of certain acts of forbearance and 
humanity exercised during the period of hostilities and 
resulting in the saving of several European lives the sen- 
tences of imprisonment passed upon Nteya and Ncanduku 
were remitted— mainly through the exertions of Eustace 
Milne— and the two sub-chiefs were allowed to rejom the 
banished remnant of their tribe in its new location beyond 
the Kei— are not all these things matters of history ? 

And how the sad relics of poor Tom Carhayes, his fate 
now under no sort of doubt, were gathered together beneath 
the great krantz in the Bashi valley on the mornmg after 
his iSsane and fatal leap, and conveyed to the settlement for 
burial, and how Eustace Milne, punctilious to a hair m his 
dealings with his barbarous neighbours, had paid over the 
stipulated ransom, even to the very last hoof, to the relatives 
of Hlangani, even though the contingency of that warriors 
demise was in no wise provided for in the original agree- 
ment—these things, too, are they not graven in the memories 

of all concerned ? , , • j j 

But if, to some, the war has brought rum and death and 
bereavement, it has entailed vastly different results upon 
two other persons at any rate ; and those, needless to say, the 
two with whom our story has been mainly concerned. For 
their good fortune has been great— greater, we fear, than they 

302 



'TWEEN SNOW AND FIRE 



had any right to expect. They are flourishing exceedingly, 
and now, after years of union, it still seems to them that they 
have only just begun to enter upon that glowing vista of 
lifelong happiness, down which they had gazed so wistfully 
in the old, troubled, and well-nigh hopeless time. But after 
sorrow and heaviness cometh joy — sometimes. And it has 
come to these two, by a weird irony of Fate, has come 
through the agency of a wild and sanguinary drama — 
through the consistent ferocity of a vindictive barbarian and 
the logical outcome thereof — even Hlangani's Revenge. 



Street & Stnitb^s 

Cloth Bound 
Books 

if 

H Descnptiw List 




ERE are some features which are common 
to the entire list of books which follows : 
They are of uniform size, sX'^tH inches, 
consequently well suited for a collection 
for a library shelf. They are well bound, 
with gold top, elaborate cover designs, and 
good paper, with pages of the standard i2mo 
size, 3^x6 inches. Each book contains from 200 
to 400 pages. The only difference between the 
35c. books and those at 50c., $1.00 and $1.25 is 
that the works at the higher prices are bound in 
more expensive cloth, and are printed on a better 
grade of paper. The 35 c. books will prove a 
source of lasting satisfaction, in quality of bind- 
ing, paper and contents, but, of course, the higher 
priced works are more elaborate. 

Every work in this list is protected by copy- 
right, and every book is a good one. 
10 



Che Ro8c Berks 

Ht 35 cents 



No. I. Geofi&ry's Victory, by Mrs. Georcie 
Sheldon. 

One of the best stories that has been produced by 
this well-known author. 

No. 2. Dr. Jack, by St. George Rathborne. 

A book famous the world over. This is the story 
that established Mr. Rathborne' s fame. 

No. 3. Bam Wildfire, by Helen B. Mathers. 

This story has been the subject of favorable com- 
ment by the press of Great Britain. They unite in de- 
claring It to be Miss Mathers' greatest work. 

No. 4. Queen Bess, by Mrs. Georgie Sheldon. 

Beyond a doubt, one of the very best American nov- 
els ever written. 

No. 5. Miss Fairfax of Virginia, by St. 

George Rathborne. 

One of the latest and most popular of this author's 
works. 

No. 6. A Difficult Matter, by Mrs. Emily 
Lovett Cameron, 

A splendid work. Concerning this book Black and 
White says: "We have a few writers whose books 
arouse in us certain expectations which are always ful- 
filled. Such a writer is Mrs. Lovett Cameron, and her 
story, 'A Difficult Matter,' does not make us change 
our opinion. Mrs. Lovett Cameron's admirers will not 
be disappointed in 'A Difficult Matter.* It is a plea- 
sant, readable story, told in an interesting manner." 



Cbc Rose 8cm9 — Continued 



No. 7. A Yale Man, by Robert Lee Tyler. 

Thousands have read this book. Thousands more 
should and will. Absorbing from start to finish. 

No. 8. Her Faithful Knight, by Gertrude 
Warden, 

This author is well known as one of the foremost 
writers of interesting and entertaining fiction. We con- 
sider this to be about the best story she has ever pro- 
duced. 

No. 9. A Gentleman from Gascony, by 

Bicknell Dudley. 

Here we have a romance of the same order as Du- 
mas' "Three Musketeers" and Stanley Weyman's 
"A Gentleman of France." 

The San Francisco Chronicle says: " 'A Gentle- 
man from Gascony,' by Bicknell Dudley, while it at 
once recalls our dear old friends of the 'Three Mus- 
keteers,' is a bright, clever, well written and entertam- 
ing story. The book gives a graphic and vivid picture 
of one of the great historic epochs of France." 

The Baltitnore American says; "'A Gentleman 
from Gascony,' by Bicknell Dudley. This is a tale of 
tlie time of Charles IX., the story opening m the \ ear 
1572. Raoul de Puycadere is of a noble family, but his 
possessions have bet- n squandered by his ancestors, and 
he leaves for Paris to better his position at court. He 
arrives on the eve of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, 
and his lady love, Gabrielle, having heard of the con- 
templated kilhng, binds a sign on his arm to protect 
him. By great good luck he is made equerry to the Kmg 
of Navarre, and between his duties as equerry and his 
lovemaking passes through many exciting adventures. " 

No. 10. A King and a Coward, by Effie 
Adelaide Rowlands. 

This is a charming love story of great interest and 
dramatic strength. It was recently published in serial 
form, and was so unanin^ously approved that it has been 
brought out in book form at the special request of a 
large number of our patrons. 
3 —^^^^^^ 



Messrs. Street & Smith 

desire to announce to the public that they have purchased 
the most valuable portion of the noted collection of book- 
pla;tes formerly belonging to the American Publishers' 
Corporation. Their purchase represents a value of over 
a half-million dollars, and includes the choicest copyrights 
and standards, covering a varied selection of the best efforts 
of nearly all the noted novelists, both English and American. 

They have also purchased, at a recent date, the 
majority of titles included in the Cassel Publishing Com- 
pany's list. These two large and valuable collections of 
titles will be gradually added to their already extensive 
and popular catalogue list. They will also continue, as 
heretofore, to issue the very latest and most popular works 
of the most successful writers of the day, in rapid succes- 
sion. 

These enormous additions to their list of plates give 
them the largest and best assortment of tides to be found 
in the English-speaking world, and the added fact may 
be noted that they have the largest and most completely 
equipped book-making plant in America. 

Under these conditions, the trade and the public may 
rest assured that the Street & Smith lines will continue 
to be at all times the leaders. 

The large aquisitions noted above will enable them to 
offer to the public at popular prices very many valuable 
works of fiction, Which have heretofore been offered only 
in high-priced editions. 

Look at their Catalogues of the right books at the right 
price (lo cents), generally to be found in the last pages of 
their books. 

Free complete Catalogue on application. 



STREET & SMITH 

238 William Street New York 

G84 



REV. CHAS. M. SHELDON'S 
WORKS *^tjNu wc^jNt^ 



In His Steps : What Would Jesus Do ? 

Robert Hardy's Seven Days 
The Crucifixion of Philip Strong 

In uniform binding in fine cloth, printed 
on a superior quality of laid paper, illus- 
trated, and embellished with gold top, 

PRICE. 50 CENTS EACH 




O writer of the present century has achieved 
such a remarkable success as the Rev. Chas. 
M. Sheldon. Millions of copies of In His 
Steps have been sold in England, and other 
millions in America, His other works arc, 
, . if anything, more powerful than In His 

Steps, each dealing with a special subject in its relations 
to the life of a consistent Christian. While many will feci 
that they cannot rise to the moral height of doing what 
Jesus would do in every instance, there is no doubt that a 
faithful effort to follow in the Christian precepts laid down 
in Mr. Sheldon's works would result in the making of a 
far better world for humanity. These books are entirely 
free from sectarianism, and will prove equally acceptable 
to all Christians, whether of the Baptist, Methodist, Epis- 
copalian, Congregational, Presbyterian, Lutheran or other 
denomination. Just the books to put into the hands of 
young people. They arc strong and vigorous works, 
which have the attractive qualities of first-class novels, 
coupled with the best of religious teaching, 

c/1 cheaper edition, in paper, is published 
by us at W cents 

STREET & SMITH, 238 WLIAM STREET 



^♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦1 

other BooKs at 50c I 



THE LITTLE n'N'STER 

By James 3f . Barrie 

One of the most popular books of modern times. This storj- has been 
dramatized, and is now being presented to large audiences throughout 
the United States. The book is illustrated, printed on fine paper and sub- 
stantially bound, making it in all a very attractive and interesting book. 
50 cents. Elegantly bound .with gilt top, etc., and contamssix illustrations. 



♦ 

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♦ 
♦ 



THE WRECK OF THE SOUTH POLE, 

or the Great Dissembler, and other strangfe tales 

By Charles Curtz Hahn 



This book by Mr. Hahn, the Editor of the Omaha World- Herald M 
a unique production. The first tale, "The Great Dissembler," is founded on 
the theme of a shipwrecked traveler, who lands in an unknown country- 
near the South Pole, and finds the inhabitants to be gifted with the power 
of mind-reading. The strange complications that arise from this remark- 
able condition, and the peculiarities of a government of mind-readers 
by mind-readers, form a distinctly interesting story. The other tales in 
this book are made up mainly of stories of the supernatural and the ex- 
traordinary. Mr. Hahn has proved himself a master at this class of work, 
and the book will undoubtedl;- have a wide circulation. Elegantly bound 
in cloth, with gold lop and fine laid paper. Price, 50 cents. 



THE PRINCE OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID 

By Rev. Prof. J. H, Ingraham 

This work is one of the most famous of all books relating to the life 
and times of Christ. The book consists of a series of letters, written by a 
Jewish maiden, visiting in the Holy City, and gives a graphic idea of 
the impression that the remarkable events of that period must have made 
on the minds of the people. A work every one should read. Elegantly 
bound and printed. Gold top and illustration. Price, 50 cents. 



HOW TO BE BEAUTIFUL 



This valuable Hand Book of Beauty has had such a wid&spread sale 
in paper at 10 cents, that we have published this elegant edition in cloth 
for those who desire the work in a more permanent form. The eighteen 
chapters of this book cover the whole subject of Beauty, including full 
instructions which, properly followed, will enable any woman to enchance 
her personal charms. Iilegantly bound hi cloth, with fine paper and gold 
top. Price, 50 cents. # 



(♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦^ 



The Transvaal War 

Timely books upon the subject, and romances 
of the region in wbiob the struggle is taking 
place. Published by Street & Smith. 



Jess, a Tale of the Transvaal 

By H. Rider Haggard. No. 83 Arrow Library. lOc. 

The Story of an African Farm 

By Olive Schreiner. This book is an excellent rom- 
ance and pen-picture of the Boers, by the sister of the present 
Premier of Cape Colony. No. 91 Arrow Library. lOc. 

The Diamond Mine Case 

By Nicholas Carter. A detective story of the Kim- 
barley Diamond Fields. No. 71 Magnet Library. 10c. 

With Boer and Britisher in the Transvaal 

By William Murray Gravdon. A splendid story for 
boys. No. 39 Hedal Library. 10c. 

The Real Kruger and the Transvaal 

By an Englishman, a Boer and an American. A most 
timely work, giving a view of the situation from all sides of 
the case. No exhaustive essays, but just tlie plain state- 
ment of facts that everybody wants to know. A valuable 
work. No. 12 Historical Series. 10c. 

*Tween Snov^ and Fire 

By Bertram Mn FORD. A powerful novel, dealing with 
Englishmen, Boers and Kaffirs ; good reading and valuable 
information combined. No. 1 Romance Series. 50c. 

Yankee Qirls in 'Oom Paul's Land 

By Louise \'escelius Sheldon. A graphic and enter- 
taining account of the South African Country as three 
American girls found it. Especially valuable for its accur- 
ate descriptions of manners, customs and topography. 
Price, in cloth, 50c.; in paper (No. 2 U ndine Seriea), 25c. 

The above books cover e\'ery phase of the South African 
question. You should read some or all of them. 

For sale by all newsdealers, or sent by mail, postpaid, on 
receipt of price by the publishers — 

STREET & SMITH, 238 Williain Street, New York. 



033 



$1. fieorgc Kdtbborne'i most famous fieok. 



I 
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DR. JACK. 

BY 

ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE. 



This popular author has written many good novels, 
but of all hia works none have become quite so famous 
J as "Dr. Jack." It is universally conceded to be a 
T a masterpiece of fiction. Everyone who has read any 
^ of Mr, Rathborne's works should not fail to read 
T "Dr. Jack," and those who have never read anything 
J from his pen will find this work an excellent one to 
^ introduce his work to their attention. There is not a 
dry line in the entire book. 



♦ 

I GOLD TOP, ENCLISH SILK CLOTH. PRICE 35 CENTS. 



STREET & SMITH, Publishers, 
232 WILLIAM STREET, 

"""«iirMraiinminm.,.NEW YORK. 



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